Every fall we ask our orchard partners to reflect on the season, to share stories with us about what the orchard provides for their community, and to let us know what they grew and harvested. We also learn what challenges they faced, which helps us plan for upcoming educational programs and training efforts. We are so grateful for all of the input from our partners and look forward to digging into the data and sharing the findings in the new year- in the meantime, there are lovely stories to share!

This year we received so many stories from partners highlighting the joy of sharing fruit and knowledge about lesser known fruits like pawpaws, persimmons, and figs with neighbors, passersby, and program participants. In many cases, orchard visitors experienced these fruits for the first time; in other cases, they made connections to family, as in this story shared by Carly Freedman of CHOP Karabots garden:

Someone came by who grew up with a fig tree in their grandma’s yard and hadn’t had any since she was a kid. She got to pick fruit from our tree and told me stories of her grandmother. I am grateful to have a space for those experiences and stories to exist in.

Below are some of our favorite excerpts from 2022, celebrating the ability of urban orchards to serve as peaceful green spaces to taste, teach, learn, and connect:

Village of the Arts

It was so great to see our youth interns choosing, designing layout and planting new shrubs and herbs in the space after losing some valuable plant life the year before. They were most proud of this accomplishment and excited to see them grow over the coming years. -Lu Thain

The youth at Village of the Arts decided to add lots of berries and medicinal herbs to the understory of their community orchard in hopes for more fruit fast.

Wyck Historic House, Farm and Garden

We collaboratively harvested apples from our orchard and used our historic apple press for a youth-centered educational demonstration on cider pressing & home farm foodways. We also harvested citrus fruits from our hardy orange tree and had a marmalade canning workshop, where the marmalade was distributed to our volunteers and extras were donated to the Germantown Community Fridges.

Union Baptist Church, Garden of Eden

The garden and the orchard had some great successes this year. I loved sharing the kiwi berries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and figs with neighborhood kids. It was always my favorite mornings when they’d pop by on their way to school or camp and bring a tupperware to harvest their morning snack!  We also started donating a portion of our weekly harvest to the South Philly Community Fridge & the MamaTee fridge @ 21st & Washington.– Meei Ling Ng

The welcoming scene of Union Baptist Church’s Garden of Eden, with sunny spots to relax and shady places with sweet hidden treasures. To the right of the picture, you can see the lush raspberries growing over the fence for the neighbors.

Wissahickon Environmental Center

This year the Phood Phorest was a gathering place for families and individuals looking to learn more about growing food and support the health of the Phood Phorest and ultimately our kids and community as it grows. We harvested our first fruit (Asian Pear), and a lot of herbs and seeds. While planting, weeding, harvesting, and garbling, each of us had the opportunity to have in depth conversations, find commonalities, and support each other outside of the Phood Phorest, as things are still challenging for some of us. – Christina Moresi

8th and Poplar Farm

This year we were lucky enough to put on several workshops under the shade and beauty of our farm’s 3 cherry trees! Living and learning within our gardens living infrastructure has been invaluable to the spirit of our community gatherings. – Hannah Thompson

Hawthorne Heart Medicine under the cherry trees at 8th and Poplar Farm, taught by Yaya Vallis a community educator with the Philly Herb Hub.

South Philly High School

I met a women this summer who wandered into the orchard from the food giveaway at the high school. She picked some berries and we talked about the orchard and growing food in general. I saw her quite a bit over the summer and we had many fun conversations. She finally revealed to me her deep grief over her son’s death two years ago. The connections that are made are of very high value. The orchard connects people to each other through the beauty of the food growing plants. Every time I’m there people stop to tell me how much our little space means to them, even if they are only looking as they walk by. –Barbara Hague

Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Center

I feel that the greatest impact of our Orchard is it attracts a multitude of different pollinators, from native bee species, to wasps, to butterflies. Since we are an environmental center, this helps us demonstrate the value of native plants and herbs in tackling the crisis of pollinator and insect decline. In addition, our garden is very beautiful. People comment on this all the time. It is next to our driveway, so folks coming to all our programs benefit from its beauty.

The Cobbs Creek Orchard has an overflowing understory of perennial herbs and flowers, providing a wide variety of habitat for a healthy ecosystem.

Philadelphia Montessori Charter School

The orchard has provided an outdoor laboratory for our students to investigate seasonal changes and experience the awe and wonder of nature. -Chett Farbstein

Fernhill Food Forest

One day while I was working in the park a man came over with his dogs and started asking about the project. After I filled him in, he told me he’d grown up in the neighborhood, long enough ago to remember the construction of Roosevelt Blvd, which tore a gash straight through the entire park. He described what it once was like, and where there used to be a group of cherry trees that him and his friends would climb and pick fruit from. It made him happy to see an area of the park that’s been neglected for so long transformed and restored in the ways we’re doing. It feels good to make an impact on the park that connects not only to the present, but also the past.

Fern Hill Food Forest is one of POP’s newest community partners, quickly establishing itself with steady sheetmulching and planting.

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.