On September 17, 2020, POP held an online program with video contributions from a number of partners and collaborators: don’t worry if you missed it, you can watch them all via links in this post! We started with a video introduction to our site partners and funding partners for the POP Learning Orchard, which featured Jessica Baumert of The Woodlands and Dr. Aronte Bennett and Susan Mease of the Junior League of Philadelphia.

Alkebu-Lan Marcus and Phil Forsyth lead a tour of the new POP Learning Orchard at The Woodlands!

Phil Forsyth and Alkebu-Lan Marcus took us on a tour of the POP Learning Orchard to talk about the developments so far, and what is planned for the future. Phil then presented the annual partner and volunteer awards. This year’s Purple Fig was awarded to Chris Bolden-Newsome and Ty Holmberg of Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden. This year’s inaugural class of Lead Orchard Volunteers received the Golden Persimmon Award for their incredible support and dedication during this year’s pandemic. The Lead Orchard Volunteer program is one we intend to continue to grow and develop in 2021, with lead support from the William Penn Foundation.

Ty Holmberg and Chris Bolden-Newsome of Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden accept POP’s 2020 Purple Fig Awards!

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier of Philadelphia’s Third Council District shared a message to congratulate this year’s award winners and remember that even without an in-person celebration, fall is the time for celebrating the harvest. Many of POP’s community orchards are located in this district and we appreciate having such a strong supporter of green spaces in that office. We also heard from a number of POP partners who provided updates from their sites on how the year is going, what they have been growing, and how they are using and enjoying their orchards.

POP is exceedingly grateful for the volunteer efforts of Marc Steiner and Katya Forsyth, who helped film and edit the videos shared during this program.

Phil Forsyth presents this year’s Golden Persimmon award to Sara Ray on behalf of all of POP’s Lead Orchard Volunteers assisting community orchards across the city.

Finally, we’re sharing an abbreviated version of the program’s closing remarks, delivered by Co-Executive Director Kim Jordan:

“The final portion of that segment on POP partners included a map of community orchards throughout the city and a roll call of partners. Our partners range from large institutions and city agencies, to long-established historic and cultural sites, to smaller grassroots and social service organizations.  

We consider tonight’s program to be just a start in highlighting POP’s partners and these efforts we are undertaking together. As Ty noted in his acceptance of the Purple Fig award, while the fruit that grows in POP orchards is one sweet and delicious outcome, we recognize that it takes WORK. Together, we plant and tend to the orchard plants, and we build the soil, but perhaps the most important work is the connections we make and those relationships we strengthen together. 

POP community partners from across the city provide updates on their orchards.

This year, POP’s board and staff have considered ways in which we can improve our practices to fight racial inequality through the advancement of greater environmental, health, and food justice. In responding to the ongoing covid crisis and social uprisings we remain, as an organization, committed to our vision of a greener, healthier, and more just city. 

POP is considering the composition of our board, staff, and volunteers, seeking to increase the representation in those groups to be more reflective of the city and to include the perspectives of those with lived experience in fighting hunger or environmental and health injustice. We know that having diverse perspectives and opinions will only make us stronger and more effective, and we acknowledge that this is a work in progress.

We will continue to educate and empower our partners and the public about perennial food crops, aiming to meet people where they are and create more accessible programs and materials. We approach this with humility, with a commitment to learning and understanding, and with a willingness to hear where we can improve. 

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier shares some words about the work of POP and Sankofa Community Farm.

We have been looking at where we can use our resources to uplift the work of our partners, especially those led by or serving BIPOC communities, such as sharing funding opportunities and connections.

This spring, we launched a new campaign called Growing Together, and in June featured Urban Tree Connection which aims to boost community leadership and self-determination focused on land and food sovereignty in the mostly Black working class Haddington neighborhood of West Philadelphia. This month’s Growing Together partner highlight was Bartram’s Garden / Sankofa Community Farm.

Further, we commit to full funding of new community orchards and orchard expansions, for new or existing partner organizations led by people of color or representing communities that have been marginalized. 

The nursery, high tunnels, and greenhouse at the Woodlands will allow us to grow more plant materials, including culturally relevant or historically important varieties that we will be able to provide to partners, and potentially to the wider community. 

These are just some of the steps we are taking to more closely align with our core values and to work towards a more just Philadelphia. 

Jessica Baumert of The Woodlands and Dr. Aronte Bennett and Susan Mease of the Junior League of Philadelphia talk about their partnerships with the POP Learning Orchard.

Before we end, I want to thank and acknowledge the POP staff: my co-executive director Phil Forsyth, and Orchard Directors Michael Muehlbauer and Alkebu-Lan Marcus: dedicated, knowledgeable, and caring colleagues who are a joy to work with. I’d also like to recognize the contributions of former Education Director Alyssa Schimmel, who moved on from POP last month, but whose efforts over the past 6 years led to the development of the School Orchard Program, numerous educational materials and programs, and POP’s community agreement and land acknowledgement. POP also has two wonderful interns in Ngoc Pham and Bethany Bronkema, who are assisting with education, outreach, and communications efforts.

We are grateful as well for the commitment and enthusiasm of POP’s 14-member board of directors, a group that includes current and former POP volunteers, partner representatives and programming partners. And of course, all of our partners, and volunteers, and other collaborators and colleagues across the city. We thank all of you for being here to listen, to learn, and we hope, to continue your involvement with POP.”

This POP Blog Post was written by POP Co-Executive Director Kim Jordan.

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