“Community orchards resonated with me because of all the things that trees can provide that vegetables gardens alone can’t – shade for one, but more importantly, a visible symbol of permanence and continuity.” -Jerry Silberman, 2009 POP Golden Persimmon volunteer
In honor of the Philadelphia Orchard Project’s 10th anniversary in 2017, we’re looking back at a different year in our history every month. We’re also designating Golden Persimmon Awards for each year in recognition of the extraordinary efforts of our volunteers.
POP VOLUNTEER HIGHLIGHT: JERRY SILBERMAN
I don’t remember how I heard about POP, but I was there for the very first planting at the South Philly Teen Orchard and I was hooked. Community orchards resonated with me because of all the things that trees can provide that vegetables gardens alone can’t – shade for one, but more importantly, a visible symbol of permanence and continuity. The vision of POP that the orchards would be community property also speaks to permanence and continuity. What’s more, I have to confess, most of my favorite foods grow on trees.
After its planting, I served as POP’s Orchard Liaison, or lead volunteer, for the South Philly Teen Orchard for more than five years. The growth of the Teen Orchard was not a linear, unbroken success. The neighborhood had its share of problems, a polyglot community with new immigrants from many countries, much poverty and the stress that go with it. For a while, a drug house across the street regularly vandalized the orchard.
But for many neighborhood children and teens over the years, it was an exciting project, and a way to share different cultures. Some youth connected some of the plantings with foods and products in their mother’s kitchens, and many, city born and bred, had their first close up appreciation of plants, bugs, and soil – and the amazement of eating something straight off the bush. In volunteering with POP at the Teen Orchard for many years I enjoyed, and learned from, the company of the young people. And of course I learned how to care for our plants, and how to pass that learning along.
The growth and development of this orchard helped POP learn and evolve a model of community partnership now applied in neighborhoods across the city. POP’s Orchard Committee meetings spent a lot of time working through how to lead new partner groups through a process that would result long-term success in creating and caring for their community orchard spaces.
A few years ago I organized a bicycle tour as part of Philadelphia Orchard Day, something I hope can happen again. But it would now take several days to see all the sites/sights POP has to offer.
SUPPORT US! If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: phillyorchards.org/donate.