Every year we ask our orchard partners to reflect on the season and to share stories with us about what the orchard provides for their community. Below are some of our favorite excerpts from 2019 celebrating the beauty, abundance, and power of city orchards to serve as an engaging place of discovery and connection.

Jose at the very top of Norris Square’s giant two story fig tree!

Norris Square Neighborhood Project

The youth in our program were able to participate in the grape vine pruning at the beginning of the season that was led by Michael, who took the time to explain technique and purpose behind their actions. The youth gained a new skill set that cold early spring day and they were able to reap the benefits of their actions later in the fall. The community gardeners noticed the difference the youth made and commented how this was a bumper crops for grapes, we were all proud and excited. The learning did not end there as a follow up visit by Michael discovered there were spotted lantern flies (SLF) nesting in the grape vines; with the advice of we were given we are going to conduct some citizen science by sowing some butterfly milkweed under the POP constructed trellis and attempt to combat the spread of SLF and further learn about this invasive species. This is an ideal situation in which POP has facilitated materials, knowledge, and inspiration to be mindful of your surroundings and the many ways an individual can participate in an urban orchard.

— Jose Spellman-Lopez

FNC Learning Farm @ 8th & Poplar

Whenever we give a tour of the farm to our students, we like to expand their knowledge of fruits and vegetables, while also making it personal to them. Whenever we get to the fig trees, students ask what they are. When we explain that these are the fruits that make the filling of a Fig Newton, our students are blown away! You can really see them putting it together that the packaged cookies they eat originate from a plant, such as the ones we have on our farm.

— Marta Lynch

Casa del Carmen

Older Latino adults volunteer to cultivate and maintain the orchard. The individuals take great pride in their work reflecting that the experience invokes beloved memories of farming and gardening in their countries of origin.

— Camille Crane

One Art

POP organized a pruning day with us and it was so fruitful. Key and Phil came out and spent the afternoon with us sharing growing tips, pruning and teaching how to prune. Our orchard was full of lovely fruits this summer. Thanks POP!

— Malaika Gilpin

Orchard pruning team at One Art Orchard in March 2019!

Historic Strawberry Mansion

People find the orchard a quiet, tranquil place to stop and admire its beauty.

Eldrege Ragsdale

Union Baptist Church Garden of Eden

We have families, mom and dad with their children, often involved in the garden this year. Many of the parents told us how important the garden is for them and their children. They said the garden environment and setup for growing is quite different from other community gardens. The children always find something new and interesting in the garden area, where different kind of plants and fruits are hidden away from the way the plants are growing together. One of the dads quoted ” My 3 year old and I try to help out in the garden every Saturday. Meei Ling enjoys teaching and sharing her wealth of knowledge with both of us. Always a pleasure when we see Ms Loretta. She knows where all the ready-to-pick fruits and veggies are! My son has so much fun learning and exploring that he doesn’t realize he’s volunteering!”

Francisville/Urbanstead Farm

We had a few different youth groups come help to harvest Juneberries. Majority of the volunteers had never heard of them before and were fascinated to learn about a new fruit that is native to the US and super tasty.

Shannon Matthews

PhillyEarth @ Village of Arts & Humanities

Older neighbors often walk by and admire the beauty the orchard creates as well as enjoying the abundance of fresh fruit it provides.

— Jon Hopkins

Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House- Erie

Our Social Worker used our herb garden to conduct a mindfulness workshop for the parents. The participants walked through the orchard with intention, when directed they would pick the herbs, feel the textures, smell the aroma, and taste. We have a sensory herb/fairy garden for the children but, on that day, the whole orchard turned into a cathartic sensory experience for all. The parents who participated loved the workshop AND they began to experiment with some of the herbs when they prepared their own food in our kitchen.

—  Carolann Costa

Sankofa Community Farm @ Bartram’s Garden

Being an orchard on public land has lots of enjoyable educational moments as well as experiences that are challenging to production and market sales. Specifically we have had lots of public picking without permission. However, this year we have made it a point to have the necessary teachable moment conversations with the local youth. Instead of frustrating interactions, we have made created an opportunity for their spring/early summer adventure to head to the orchard for a snack to be about education and community. We encourage the group of young ones to pick with others in mind and when the farmers are present, as well as learning the trees and picking when fruit is ripe. This relationship building has created a better sense of community among all those who wander through the orchard.

— Tyler Holmberg

Ripening peaches at Sankofa Community Farm present a teachable moment and chance to build community.

Wyck Historic House

Although our POP orchard is young and not producing abundantly quite yet, our existing sour cherry tree is what inspired us to work with POP to plant two more, and it’s already a tradition at Wyck for cherry lovers to gather in June to share in the picking, reaching, teetering on ladders…to get every last fruit. With our cherries, we have made cherry pie, cherry apple sauce, and even cherry bounce from a historical recipe.

— Martha Keen

Hunting Park Community Garden

Early in the season I had the opportunity to engage with new members of the parks walking group. It was expressed that they live in a different part of the city and was unfamiliar with the park and all that the park had to offer. The garden and orchard was a particular surprise in such a densely populated area.

— Michael Wilcox

Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School

After falling in love with the figs last year, students, teachers, and staff at the school were thrilled to taste Asian pears from the orchard. When we brought in a ripe pear for Mrs. Stanley, a teacher who has been a champion of gardening at the school, her face lit up and it turned her day around.

— Jenny Dunker

Overbrook School for the Blind

Watching the students explore and eat the berries. The facial expressions of the students are all different in how they respond to the taste of the berries. The funniest are the sour berries and you get the puckered up reaction. For some of the students it is the first time that they are exposed to fresh berries.

Lee Stough

Weavers Way Farms- Mort Brooks & Henry Got Crops

The cafeteria manager at Saul High School reached out to me and asked if we had persimmons. I was thrilled to be able to tell her “Yes!” We have two persimmon trees at Awbury and we had just recently harvested. We delivered the persimmons and she was able to share them with the students.

We have had multiple customers wait with great anticipation for the paw paws. It now seems like we are creating a bit of a following! People ask months in advance about when the paw paws will be available.

— Nina Berryman 

Fairmount Park Horticulture Center

This site has had great support in the past two-three years from employees of MOM’s Organic Markets. On a particularly memorable workday, volunteers were clearing out an abundant self-seeding of iron weed in-bloom with purple flowers. The volunteers had a great time taking photos with a giant bouquet of the plant. They have returned many times over and have shared that this is one of their team’s favorite sites to volunteer and that they look forward to it every month during the growing season. Some shared that they have brought other family members and friends to the space on their free time as well. We were also heartened this year to see great inter-generational engagement in the space with visitors to the Hort Center coming on a plant tour to learn of the benefits of plants featured in the food forest. It was fun for all ages and the children were especially engaged in looking at the variety of flowers and noting what butterflies and moths were coming to visit the various plants!

Alyssa Schimmel

The Hort Center Food Forest is a great place to explore the relationships between orchard companion plants and pollinators.

Awbury Arboretum

A family signed up for one or our volunteer days to participate. They were two siblings and they each brought their children to enjoy the day working outside. When they arrived the siblings were so excited to see how much was happening inside Awbury’s walls that they could enjoy and be a part of. They explained to me how they would play here as children and had just moved back to the area. They were glad to learn it was a place their children could play but as a family they could also learn about and access locally grown food while meeting neighbors.

— Karen Flick

Grumblethorpe

This year, our youth on the farm experienced growing, harvesting, and processing grapes into jelly to sell, which was an incredibly valuable full circle experience for them.

— Michael Muehlbauer 

Kleinlife Community Center 

This year our peach and apple trees produced fruits like no other year. Of course we had to thin the fruits on the trees down a lot, but watching the trees produce such beautiful fruits, and then to taste our very own peaches was an absolute treat. They were so juicy and sweet, and gosh darn perfect. We even had some plums that ripened on our new trees. It’s just so rewarding to raise fruit trees through to fruit production.

— John Eskate

Friends Rehabilitation Program @ Sarah Allen Homes

Planting the orchard provided a great opportunity for residents to work with volunteers from POP, the Nature Conservancy, Lowes and elsewhere to plant trees and shrubs that they identified as important in our design meetings last year. It was great to show tangible progress towards developing an edible landscape that residents are excited about.

— Rania Campbell-Bussiere

Historic Fair Hill

This year the young nectarine tree was loaded. We had a student/parent orientation meeting before the start of our youth farm internship. The students took their parents to the tree and picked bags full of beautiful golden fruit to take home. What a great start to the summer garden season, thanks to POP!

— Jean Warrington

Penn Park

One of my favorite memories from this year is one of the Pick Your Own events that I organized with Greenfield Intercultural Center at Penn. We picked golden raspberries and herbs as the sun set behind us, illuminating the city skyline. Everyone at the Pick Your Own night had never been to the orchard before, and they all said that they really enjoyed it and would come back again. A few people mentioned that they would be interested in studying in the space, which made me feel happy that they associated the space with a degree of calm, peace and comfort that I also feel.

That day picking blackberries in Penn Park Orchard is one of those sacred, therapeutic memories for me, along with moments picking strawberries, laughing with the youth from the Rebel Ventures program and climbing fig trees to reach ripe fruit to share with the FRES office.

Olivia Bridges

Raspberries and asters at Penn Park Orchard in October 2019.

Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center

During the construction of the grape arbor a disabled veteran assisted with the construction and was very vocal about enjoying helping with the project. His disability prevents him from working, however he was able to provide valuable skilled labor to the project.

Tony Croasdale

Carousel House Farm

This year we placed some picnic tables in the orchard and it’s become a great meeting space for small gatherings.

Kim Cook

Tulpehocken Train Station Orchard and Garden

I must say, once again, that for our particular garden—at a train station—the best harvest is the friendships that are started or renewed on those workdays and also on the summer weeding/watering Saturdays. And the joy it brings neighbors to walk through a lovely park instead of the dumping ground that it was seven short years ago.

Marjorie Russell

St Bernard Community Garden

We started tracking our orchard harvesting activities through an online spreadsheet this year. The sheet has an optional column to list how the harvested fruit was used, and it was great to see the variety of uses (and high level of enthusiasm!) people had for their fresh-picked fruit.

South Philadelphia High School Gardens

Time and again neighbors and visitors to the school stop and stare at the garden and thank us for beautifying the space. The fruit picked through (black berries and raspberries) or over (figs) the fence has been a gold mine. People even stop to pick the grape leaves.

Patricia Tahan

Woodford Mansion

The Apple Festival is something we have every year that draws in people from the neighborhood as well as visitors from far and wide.

Shaheed Oliver, East Park Revitalization Alliance

Fruit tree planting volunteers at the 11th annual Woodford Apple Festival in October 2019!

Mill Creek Farm

First season I got persimmons. I harvested everything and it was good to know that at the very end of the harvest season you have a sweet treat waiting for you.

ebu-lan Marcus

Greenfield Elementary

In the fall, after school dismissal I pick figs from our fig tree and pass them out to my daughters and their friends. The children love them!

Stanislas Devigne

SHARE Food Program

We have one community member who has been asking for hachiya persimmons all year, and we got a great harvest of them this season and told her she could have as many as she wanted. I also took a few home with me to try making hoshigaki. People were also very excited to hear that the pears were hyper-local, growing just outside the warehouse. Warehouse employees would take extended breaks in the orchard in the summer months, picking mulberries and staining their fingers with juice. A few of us made elderflower liqueur from the elderberry bush and shared it with coworkers.

Nina Taylor

The Woodlands

Adding to the edible landscape of The Woodlands gives us a chance to tell the story of William Hamilton’s time on the property in a more complete way. It helps convey to our visitors how rural and functional the site would have been in his time.

-Robin Rick

Sayre High School

The peach tree that is in the center of our garden is a focal point of our activity there. Students get to watch the peaches grow until they’re ripe and then get to taste the harvest that they worked for.

Eric Sherman

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