What does the next 10-20 years hold for the future of community orchards, education, and perennial food security?

After 12 years of planting community orchards, POP staff, board, key partners and volunteers took pause to envision: what does the next 10-20 years hold for the future of community orchards, education, and perennial food security? In many ways it’s a question we as growers and educators continue asking, that we revisit season after season alongside all that is pressing in this current time. It’s a question that keeps us planting new fruit trees for future generations, building connections with neighbors, and harvesting and sharing fruit and herbs from the earth. How do we plant a healthy and resilient future while honoring those whose legacies inspire this work and carry it forward?

Some outgrowths from these conversations included an intentional expansion of reach, the desire to go deeper into our mission of activating healing green spaces, and building more thoughtful and inclusive frameworks of education, mentorship, and support for community orchard caretakers. Over the last two years, the POP team has been working to give shape to these visions. We’re energized to share new written resources and programming practices that uplift necessary considerations around accessibility, inclusion, and safety in the orchards, as well as recommendations around community organizing and development. 

Beginning with a Land Acknowledgement, POP will work to uplift the legacies of the Lenni-Lenape and Wingohocking people of the Delaware watershed who stewarded these lands for centuries and continue to do so in these unceded territories now known as Philadelphia. We recognize that many of the practices we draw upon in designing and supporting food forest orchards named in permaculture practices come from the collected wisdom of many indigenous traditions as well as the traditions of many Black & Brown, Women, & Queer people throughout history whose contributions are too often erased. We name this with respect and know that naming it alone is not enough.

This Land Acknowledgment is posted on our website (on the Programs page), and will be shared with volunteers as part of our waivers and sign up procedures. POP’s board and staff will spend their July retreat on a guided discussion of this topic, determining what additional steps that POP can take as an organization to affirm our support and solidarity for indigenous rights and visibility.  We look forward to sharing with our community what comes out of this discussion and what steps we plan to take, and welcome any input that our partners, volunteers, or other community offers would like to offer.

Inspired by the meaningful work of organizations like Soil Generation, Soul Fire Farm, AORTA, The Anti-Oppression Network, Bike!Bike! and others, and with input from our board, partners, staff, and key volunteers, we have also written a Community Agreement that will serve as a guide for how we intend to hold community events and volunteer days with all parties entering into agreement on shared respect for all peoples, abilities, expressed identities and lived experiences. The Community Agreement can be found on POP’s website (on the About Us and Volunteer pages) and will be shared with volunteers as part of our waivers and sign-up procedures. The POP board and staff additionally commit to pursuing yearly training in issues related to our cause such as decolonizing the food system, unpacking racism, and human resources to better serve our community partners. 

We intend that these documents help to make our values as an organization explicit and serve as a commitment for our ongoing work in these areas of equity and justice.  We also intend that these documents be considered ‘living documents’ that can evolve over time to capture necessary conversations, additions, and edits as we share with our partners and communities. We aim to review these documents yearly moving forward to make any necessary updates.  Below is a copy of both documents as they exist currently (May 2020). 

Land Acknowledgement

We humbly acknowledge that POP works in the unceded indigenous territory of the Lenni-Lenape and Wingohocking people, who were and continue to be active stewards of the land. We recognize that words are not enough and we aim to actively uphold indigenous visibility and sovereignty for individuals and communities who live here now, and for those who were forcibly removed from their Homelands. By offering this Land Acknowledgment, we affirm Indigenous sovereignty and will work to hold POP accountable to the needs of American Indian and Indigenous peoples.

Community Agreement

POP staff and board have created this community agreement to uplift a commitment to mutual care, respect, justice, humility, growth, and community building in the spaces in which we work collectively. POP encourages all POP partners and volunteers to uphold these values through the following:  

  • Respecting everyone’s identity, ability, background, voice, experience, and boundaries.
  • Committing to making spaces and experiences as accessible as possible: physically, socially, and personally.
  • Committing to listen for understanding and create opportunities for all voices to be heard.
  • Creating inclusive learning environments where people have the opportunity to both teach and learn.
  • Accepting a shared responsibility to hold ourselves and one another accountable for these agreements’ intent.

Why have a Community Agreement?

We believe every person must be personally responsible for their words and actions and recognize that they can intentionally or unintentionally cause harm to others.  POP’s conflict resolution practices are rooted in listening with humility, dismantling oppressive frameworks, and cultivating greater sensitivity and community care. 

In the event that you have encountered an instance of language or behavior that feels oppressive or discriminatory in nature, please alert a member of the POP team for support in addressing the incident.  Please also feel empowered to address the behavior directly. 

This blog post was prepared by POP Education Director Alyssa Schimmel, and Co-Executive Directors Kim Jordan and Phil Forsyth.

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: phillyorchards.org/donate.