It was a beautiful early fall day as partners, supporters, volunteers, board members, staff, and a variety of new and familiar faces gathered on September 17, 2022 at the Learning Orchard to celebrate POP’s 15th anniversary. The event offered orchard tours, both self-guided and led by co-executive director Phil Forsyth; fresh cider pressing; lots of delectable food and drink options; some dreamy live music with Martronimous on trumpet and Alyssa Resh on vibraphone; and an orchard-based art activity using peach pit charcoal and beeswax color blocks led by Nicole from Ampersand Textile & Design.

One of our favorite parts of the Orchard Celebration is the awards ceremony, where we can share a little about the people who contributed to POP’s mission. This year, co-executive director Kim Jordan presented the Purple Fig award to the Junior League of Philadelphia (JLP), an organization of women first established in 1912 that provides training and development for volunteers so they can contribute to their communities. POP and the JLP first partnered in 2012 when the JLP sponsored the planting of two new orchards at Hunting Park and Carousel House and launched their Apple A Day initiative. Since then, our two organizations have worked together in various ways: through “Done in a Day” volunteer opportunities at orchard care days, plantings, or harvest festivals; through their support of POP’s tool lottery (provided as an incentive for partners to respond to the annual partner survey!) via the Little Black Dress Initiative; through the dedication of several JLP members as active and valued members of POP’s board of directors over the past 8 years; and most recently through their financial support of the Learning Orchard.

A meaningful gift committed by the JLP Sustainers Blossom Fund back in 2016 is what has allowed POP to make a number of infrastructure investments at the Learning Orchard, including deer fencing, a new access road to the nursery, and nearly all of the trees, bushes, vines, pollinator plants, and ground covers planted at the Learning Orchard. Last spring, when we held a ceremonial tree planting with some JLP members, we hoped to be able to install high tunnels that year. Due to unforeseen delays, that step has taken far longer than expected, but it should finally take place in the spring of 2023.

Kimberley Brown, President of the Junior League, who was there to accept the award, shared: “POP and The Junior League of Philadelphia’s (JLP) partnership stems more than 10 years, when the JLP sponsored two orchard plantings at Hunting Park and Carousel house and later  supported the infrastructure of the Woodlands park.  Since then, the two groups have planted 50 orchards in partnership with other community groups across the city including schools, community gardens, houses of worship and non-profit organizations. We’ve also completed “Done-In-A-Day” volunteer opportunities, Apple Harvest Festivals, the Little Black Dress Initiative, and support through Board Service from several JLP members. It’s wonderful to see and experience how an idea and partnership have come to life to have such an impact on the community. Providing not only fresh fruits and vegetables, but also education, will benefit members of our community for years to come.” We agree, it is wonderful!

Co-executive director Phil Forsyth presented 2022 Golden Persimmon awards to Megan Partridge (Share), Andrew Figuerido (POP Learning Orchard), Jeannie Gerth (Awbury Food Forest), and Tamir Williams (POP Learning Orchard), and shared the following remarks: “It is my honor and pleasure to introduce this year’s Golden Persimmon volunteer awards, something I look forward to every year! For the third year, we are recognizing ALL of our Lead Orchard Volunteers with these awards. This is a wonderful group of dedicated volunteers that greatly expand the impact of POP’s small staff in supporting 67 community orchards across the city. Each LOV, as we call them, helps out with a specific orchard on a regular basis, most monthly and some even more often; sometimes with POP staff and sometimes independently. This year we have had 30 active LOV’s, supporting a total of 20 orchard partner sites. 13 of these LOV’s are new this year and will be receiving printed, framed Golden Persimmon awards. We have both new and returning LOV’s with us at the Orchard Celebration today and on behalf of POP’s staff, board, and partners across the city, we thank you all for all you do!” 

As always the food and beverage options were incredible! The POP crew kept the cider press going with apples donated by Philly Foodworks and Riverwards Produce. Golden Dragon Philly put together a delicious menu that included Endless Summer Salad with veggies from Novick Farm; macaroni pie; and inari (tofu pockets). Once the Weckerly’s ice cream sandwiches were devoured (the delightful flavors on offer were Peach Breakfast and Sunshine & Berries), guests thoroughly enjoyed two amazing tray cakes baked by POP board member Jena Harris with apples and nectarines from Three Springs Fruit Farm. Beverages included wines donated by Camuna Cellars and a variety of ciders from Ploughman Cider. A number of community partners contributed some of the bounty from their fall harvests for guests to try, including pawpaws from Weavers Way Farm at Saul HS and Fair Amount Food Forest; figs from Bartram’s Garden, Overbrook School for the Blind, and St. Bernard Community Garden. The fig bounty was made even more abundant with figs from the Learning Orchard, and from the backyard trees of Phil Forsyth and former POP Orchard Director Alkebu-Lan Marcus. To round out the fruit samples, Three Springs donated Blondee and Arlet apples, and Philly Foodworks donated ground cherries and Bartlett pears. To make sure no food went to waste, the remaining fruit was delivered to the People’s Fridge on 52nd St at the end of the event.

2022 OC program
2022 Orchard Celebration program including honorees and sponsor info

We want to recognize and thank the supporters of this event: through financial contributions from event sponsors, in-kind support which helped keep down costs, and ticket sales and donations, the event raised nearly $14,500 to support POP’s year-round efforts. Specifically, we acknowledge:

Lead Sponsors: The Junior League of Philadelphia

Learning Orchard Sponsors: Penn Medicine and AARP-PA

Pawpaw Promoter: MOM’s Organic Market, Share Food

Asian Pear Advocate: Camuna Cellars, Philly Foodworks, Riverwards Produce, Studio 111 Architecture

Cherry Champion: Plume Salon, Penn FRES

At the event, POP also collected donations for two important community efforts, both through collecting cash donations made by event attendees, and by sharing their social media handles and Venmo accounts. POP made additional contributions to each organization following the event and will continue to share information about how to be involved in each effort. Save UC Townhomes is a resident-led coalition to save a 70-unit low income housing project at 40th & Market in West Philadelphia, an area that has been gentrified over the past few decades due to pressure from the surrounding universities (Penn and Drexel). The University City Townhomes complex had been contracting with HUD for the past four decades, but earlier in 2022 residents – including some who have lived there their whole lives – received eviction notices. Learn more about the history of this area, an historically Black neighborhood that used to be known as the Black Bottom before it was demolished by the City of Philadelphia through the use of eminent domain, here. Funds were also raised for The People’s Fridge, a community-run mutual aid effort that has been located on 52nd St since the middle of 2020. This fridge is open to everyone and can be accessed 24/7; it receives donations nearly every week from the POP Learning Orchard during the growing season. Be sure to check their social media to see for updated calls for volunteers, who are needed to help with everything from emptying trash to cleaning out the fridge to helping with grocery runs (which they sometimes are able to reimburse for!). Keeping our community fed is a vital and ongoing need so please support them if you can.

Map of the POP Learning Orchard
Map of the POP Learning Orchard designed by Hinge Collective

This POP Blog was written by 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 in Philadelphia: or start a recurring monthly gift!