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. Stories from partners typically highlighting the joy of sharing fruit and knowledge about orchard plants and their harvests, and the ways that growing and sharing fruit allows them to connect with neighbors.

We also invite partner to share what they value most about the support that POP provides. These responses included the feedback below:

  • Education about orchard and plant care. Introduction to new species and varieties. Willingness to go extra mile such as lending orchard press and sending POP staff to help several times a year
  • The pruning and check ups that we get during the year. We absolutely love you guys!!
  • POP staff has been amazing, this year they came before the potlucks and this made a great impression on people who came.
  • Community, expertise, accountability
  • I love the energy and knowledge that POP comes in with, I’ve learned so much from them in our monthly workdays, i don’t know how we’d do this without them!

Keep reading to discover some more stories from 2023, celebrating the ability of urban orchards to serve as peaceful green spaces to taste, teach, learn, and connect.

Norris Square Neighborhood Project

“When the youth hear that we have apple trees and peach trees- they are surprised and excited. It’s almost like it’s hard to believe that those things would be growing here- but getting to share those spaces with them is a fun exercise in seeing what is possible.” – Ria Alfonso, Garden Educator

NSNP also collaborated with POP on a bilingual Spanish-language workshop in 2023, which include a plant walk around their gardens and an herbal salve make & take. A number of youth from the Kensington neighborhood, who regularly participate in NSNP programs, joined the workshop. See more photos here!

Workshop leader Marian Dalke discusses medicinal uses of the herbal understory plants at NSNP's Las Parcelas gardens with workshop participants, October 2023. Marian leans over by the metal fence, reaching down to hold a leaf of comfrey, as two other people look on.
Workshop leader Marian Dalke discusses medicinal uses of the herbal understory plants at NSNP’s Las Parcelas gardens with workshop participants, October 2023

Other sites served as places of learning, with volunteer Grace sharing some workshops they hosted at their space to accompany work days such as tea making from pine needles and tincture making from Nettles and lemon balm in the garden.

Figs – an “amazingly abundant”, “bountiful” fruit – remain a favorite harvest across sites including the Learning Orchard. But lesser-known fruits got their due too!

“Our fig trees had a visibly bountiful crop this year. A wide variety of people came in to pick figs. The orchard volunteers interacted with many new neighbors. We didn’t all speak the same languages, but we could all speak figs!” – Barbara Hague, Lower Moyamensing Civic Association Orchard at South Philly High

“Community Members always ask for fruit at our market and this year our production of figs, persimmons, plums, etc really made chemical free produce available and accessible… what matters most are our large community volunteer days where people of all different backgrounds work side by side sharing stories of their food, culture and traditions. There is nothing like working hard on the land and food that can bring people together, and fruit brings that sweetness which makes it easier.” – Ty Holmberg, Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden

“It was always a treat when students got to try fruits they never had before. For example, currants, Goumi, Aronia berries, Nanking cherries, sour cherries, and figs were new ones for most kids (and adult staff for that matter!). Currants, cherries, and figs were especially well loved!” – Harry Russell, Netter Center and Hamilton Elementary School

“There were 200 students at One Art for an event. The children were very excited to see apples growing on a tree so One (co-director of One Art) climbed up the tree and started sending apples down. Every time another student got an apple the group cheered. Who would have thought freshly picked apples would have brought so much joy!” – Malaika Hart Gilpin, One Art Community Center

The POP crew and Malaika Gilpin pose for a photo on a sunny day following a pruning session at One Art Community Center, spring 2023.

Students and youth visited many different orchards, and got to experience new adventures such as nature walks, group harvests, seed saving, and family outings.

“We often have kids join us for our ‘Farm Club’ volunteer days. They really enjoy climbing the huge apple tree, and one of the moms this year said it was the first time her son had climbed a tree! He would run to climb it every week.” – Marsha Lewis, Wyck Historic House

“During one visit to the orchard this past fall, Saul students sliced paw paws and cracked hazelnuts for tasting on the tail gate of the back of the farm pick-up truck. Many of them had never tasted either.” – Jessica Schweiger, Weaver’s Way Farms (Saul HS and Awbury Ag Village)

“I’m often stopped and asked about the orchard by strangers passing by or through our space. This year, children from the school on the corner who have been coming by the garden inquired with us about our “please ask before harvesting” signs. Their teacher is now on our email group and the kids have been coming by to learn and share in some of the collective work (age appropriate, of course) and bounty of our orchard.” – Matthew Sekellick, St Bernard Community Garden

“Before the orchard, this space on the corner of 52nd and Pine was unused. Building the orchard expanded our garden space in front of the school where our main garden is located to span the entire block on 52nd Street from Pine to Osage creating an undeniable green space on this well traveled corner. We added a pergola for shade covering, picnic benches and ferns, and hosted many workshops in that space. The raspberries along the fence brought many smiles and joy to our community.” – Jiana Murdic, Get Fresh Daily

Participants in an Afro-herbalist workshop at Mill Creek Farm pick berries off the branch for processing, summer 2023. The table behind them has small glass bottles lined up, ready for filling.
Participants in an Afro-herbalist workshop at Mill Creek Farm pick berries off the branch for processing, summer 2023.

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.