Phil has led POP’s orchard design and development since our first plantings in the spring of 2007. As Executive Director, he works with POP’s board and staff to design and plant orchards, coordinate volunteers, lead educational programs, write grants and organize fundraising activities. Phil has eighteen years of experience in urban farming, gardening, and landscaping. He holds a BS in Horticulture and Landscape Design from Colorado State University and a Certificate in Permaculture Design & Teaching from the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute. Phil previously owned and operated an edible landscape design business in Philadelphia and also blogs on urban farming, edible landscaping, and food growing and has written articles for GRID, the Permaculture Activist, and Urban Farming magazine. In 2017, Phil received the first ever Mary Seton Corboy Award from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
Imagine a Philadelphia where every community regardless of location or wealth has access to fresh, healthy fruit grown right in the neighborhood. . .
Mission: The Philadelphia Orchard Project is a nonprofit organization that plants and supports community orchards in the city of Philadelphia.
Vision: In partnership with communities, POP envisions urban ecosystems that create beautiful green spaces, connect neighbors, provide hands-on learning experiences, and grow fresh fruit for generations to come.
Since 2007, POP has worked with community-based groups and volunteers to plan and plant orchards filled with useful and edible plants in neighborhoods across the city. POP provides orchard design assistance, plant materials, and training in orchard care. Community organizations own, maintain, and harvest the orchards, expanding community-based food production. Orchards are planted in formerly vacant lots, community gardens, schoolyards, and other urban spaces, almost exclusively in low-wealth neighborhoods where people experience limited access to fresh fruit. POP orchard partners and sites with public access can be found on the Orchard Planting Page.
Pop Core Values
Education / Learning
Founded in 2007 by economic development pioneer Paul Glover, POP is part of a growing movement across the world to develop more sustainable, equitable, and ethical local food systems. Philadelphia is one of the centers of this work, with some 40,000 vacant lots and the highest poverty rate among big cities in America. As the cost of energy, food, and health care rises, the low-wealth neighborhoods where POP plants are the most vulnerable to hunger and related health problems. Orchards and community vegetable gardens offer neighborhoods the most direct access to healthy food, and build people’s capacity to feed their families and neighbors.
- 2007: POP founded; 3 community orchards supported
- 2008: POP hired Phil Forsyth as part time Orchard Director; 10 community orchards supported
- 2009: POP organized first seasonal harvest festival; 17 community orchards supported
- 2010: POP received 501 c3 status; 23 community orchards supported
- 2011: POP organized first city wide Philadelphia Orchard Day; 34 community orchards supported
- 2012: POP promoted Phil Forsyth to Executive Director; 39 community orchards supported
- 2013: POP organized first annual orchard partner survey; 43 community orchards supported
- 2014: POP hired Program Director Robyn Mello; piloted POPHarvest gleaning program; 47 community orchards supported
- 2015: POP hired Development Associate Tanya Grinblat; planted 1000th fruit tree; 51 community orchards supported
- 2016: POP piloted orchard apprenticeship program; 56 community orchards supported
- 2017: POP hired Education Director Alyssa Schimmel; piloted POPCORE training course and initiated School Orchard Program; 59 community orchards supported
- 2018: POP hired Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer and Orchard Assistant Alkebu-lan Marcus; piloted POPHarvestEd program; 62 community orchards supported
- 2019: POP started planting its demonstration orchard at The Woodlands; Kim Jordan became Co-Executive Director alongside Phil Forsyth; 65 community orchards supported
- 2020: POP hired Alkebu-Lan Marcus as Orchard Director; piloted Lead Orchard Volunteer program; grew and distributed annual crops to emergency food services during the pandemic; 65 community orchards supported
- 2021: POP hired Sharon Appiah as Orchard Assistant and Corrie Spellman-Lopez as Outreach & Education Coordinator; received funding from the PA Department of Agriculture to build high tunnels; installed a solar system to power the edible plant nursery at the Woodlands; 66 community orchards supported
POP 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?
In our work to plant and support community orchards, POP recognizes the immediacy of our responsibility as agents of land-based food and community work to cultivate safe and inclusive spaces in which staff, board, site partners, and volunteers operate. We rally around these ideas for inspiration and to ensure that if there is behavior which does not make us feel safe, we have something to point to. By agreeing to a commitment of mutual respect, we hope that if conflict does arise, we will remember what we have agreed to, and act accordingly.
- Fruit and herbs from orchards complement annual crops already grown in Philadelphia’s more than 250 active community vegetable gardens.
- Trees, berries, and herbs do require watering, weeding, and pruning; but they are less resource and labor intensive than most other crops.
- Orchards help establish agriculture as a permanent part of the city’s environment, economy, and culture.
- Trees shade the city, reducing air conditioning costs and improving air quality.
- Fruit and nut trees sequester more carbon emissions than the softwood trees typically planted for carbon offsets.
POP helps its partners to transform neglected urban spaces into well-maintained, beautiful landscapes. Uncared for, vacant lots are home to vermin. Planting and mulching orchards, and keeping them weeded, typically flushes out these unwanted critters. When orchard fruit is properly harvested, it poses no risk of attracting rodents.
The risk of destruction by insect pests is greatly reduced by the biodiversity of our eco-orchards. vacant lots are home to vermin. planting and mulching orchards, and keeping them weeded, typically flushes out these unwanted critters. pop plants chives and other herbs that help deter pests. preventative measures, such as installing bat or barn owl boxes may also be taken.
No, POP does not recommend spraying orchards with toxic pesticides. POP advises its partners on the use of natural, organic methods for controlling orchard pests and diseases. The Penn State Agricultural Extension provides expertise on Integrated Pest Management and can also recommend other organic methods for pest control, including safe, organic sprays.
Each community partner organization determines how they want to distribute fruit, which they describe in their application for a POP orchard. POP requires that the harvest (or proceeds from its sale) go to benefit low-wealth communities. This usually means the food goes directly to people who experience limited access to fresh fruit. Some neighborhoods invite free public harvests. Others donate to food banks and hungry neighbors. Some orchards are maintained as community-based farms, where the fruit is sold to support community programs. See the POP Orchards list for all the ways the harvest is distributed.
The majority of POP orchards are fenced as a measure to protect the young trees from vandalism. POP’s founder, Paul Glover, promoted a vision of communities sharing food, writing, “Community gardeners already rely on neighborhood respect and restraint, but free harvest would not be punished. The hungry should eat.”
Kim has been involved with POP since it was formed in 2007, first serving as a volunteer while in grad school, then as a Board member from 2009-2016. She joined POP’s staff as Development Director in January 2019, and has served as Co-Executive Director since October 2019, helping POP grow its programs, staff, and impact. Kim moved to Philadelphia in 2004 to pursue a PhD in Immunology from the University of Pennsylvania, completing her dissertation on food-borne parasites in 2010. It was through planting and tending trees in community orchards across Philadelphia while meeting inspirational community groups and growers that she grew to love with the city and decided to call it home. Outside of POP, Kim appreciates the many opportunities the city offers for civic engagement: she is a 2017 graduate of the Citizens Planning Institute, a member of the Riverwards Area Democrats, and since 2018 has served as a Democratic committee person in the 31st Ward. In 2023 she joined the Board of Directors of Norris Square Neighborhood Project.
Sharon has been a volunteer for various local farms and community gardens since relocating to Philadelphia in 2018. In the summer of 2020, Sharon worked with Soil Generation as a part of the Farm Brigade, assisting and learning under the guidance of Black-led community gardens across the city. Sharon is eager to use the knowledge they learn working with POP to expand their farming journey, lend a hand in providing food for the community they love to call home and most importantly, share skills with others who are also curious, passionate and empowered by learning how to grow food. Sharon has been leading the efforts to grow annual crops at the POP Learning Orchard since 2022, and sharing their new-found passion for maple tapping with the POP community.
Corrie joined the POP team in 2021, bringing with them over ten years of working to connect people with plants, and now serves as Education Director. Corrie loves to grow food with others as an act of celebration. She holds a BA in Peace and Social Justice from Berea College and a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz. Corrie previously managed educational garden spaces in Philadelphia and diversified organic production farms on the West Coast.
Simone, a transplant from Michigan, had her sights on POP since moving to Philly and began helping out in 2021 as an orchard intern supporting orchards in North/Northwest Philly. Since her early days, she’s always had dirt under fingernails and that’s how she likes it. Simone has dabbled in horticulture since high school, having worked with a few small farms, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Plant Conservatory in Detroit, a natural areas management crew, a few landscaping crews, and most recently, with Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. She also started a gardening club with Bright Futures After School Program, planting a butterfly garden in the school courtyard with middle schoolers. Having gained deep knowledge about plants, plant maintenance, and restoration over the years, she now wants to focus more on the intersection between people and plants and move in a more environmental justice and food access-focused route. She is currently working towards a masters in landscape architecture at Temple.
Cortina originally joined the POP team as the Fundraising and Communications Intern in April 2021, and started as Fundraising and Communications Assistant in November 2021. Originally from Binghamton, New York, Cortina served in the US Navy for five years before starting her degree at University of Washington in Seattle. She became interested in learning more about environmental justice and urban agriculture during her time there and is now working towards finishing her degree in the Department of Biodiversity, Earth, and Environmental Science at Drexel University. Cortina can’t wait to learn more about gardening, but most of all she is passionate about helping POP achieve its vision of working with communities to connect and create green spaces in the city of Philadelphia that will provide access to fresh fruit in a sustainable way.
Erika grew up in Massachusetts surrounded by small farms and orchards. Drawn to the natural beauty of the west, Erika went to college in California and stayed for several years after. They worked in social justice-oriented education as a a pre-school teacher, adjunct professor, and outdoor educator. When they moved to Philly in 2020, they knew that they wanted to enter the world of urban agriculture as it fit so many of their interests in land-based justice work. Soon after their move, they joined the Woodlands Learning Orchard team as a lead orchard volunteer. Erika is a people person with a plant hobby. They love how urban agriculture provides opportunities for neighbors to joyfully connect to one another and to the land around them. If you see them at one of the orchards, please say hi!
Deja is a community-based chef and land worker who deeply loves feeding people and dreams of building self-sufficient communities. While studying under Amirah Mitchell (Sistah Seeds) as a Seed Keeping Fellow, she developed a profound awareness and understanding of her southern roots. Tending to seeds significant to her Texas upbringing ignited Deja’s curiosity and interest in Black Foodways and the connection of her lineage through food and its stories. In the fall of 2021, Deja created and facilitated an Intergenerational African Diaspora Cooking Class at Life Do Grow Farm in North Philadelphia. This opportunity allowed her to create a safe space for others to learn about cooking resourcefully and build on the practices of their ancestors. These experiences shaped Deja’s belief that knowing how to grow food, feeding each other, and understanding the stories behind our dishes are all tools of collective preservation. Deja is so grateful for the opportunity to join POP, where she will deepen her relationship to growing food and build a stronger connection with the community across Philadelphia.
Carolina started at POP in January 2023 and was excited to join the team as an Orchard Assistant. Originally from Curico, Chile, Carolina immigrated to East Falls with their family in 1996. They studied International Business and Trade at Drexel University where their academic interests focused on the globalized food system. Since graduating, Carolina has worked in southeastern PA in a variety of jobs at the crux of immigration justice, the restaurant industry, labor rights, and urban gardening. They are a proud member of the Cesar Iglesias Garden, where they support monthly work days to tend to the land. In 2021, they became a Philly County Master Gardener through Penn State Extension. Carolina is a budding herbalist who recently wrapped up their apprenticeship with Master Herbalist Karen Rose at Sacred Vibes Apothecary; they are also a scholarship recipient at the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine for medicine making.
Indy joined POP in 2023 to support critical communication, fundraising, storytelling and educational initiatives to further cultivate POP’s reach and impact. He is interested in regenerative systems for shared humanity, peace, and prosperity. Along with a broad background in communications and media, Indy is an educator and lifelong student of the mind. His diversity of work has included strategic development for community organizations, design for artists, award-winning documentary films, and performing music around the world. Most recently, he led the Digital Media and Sustainability programs at Dobbins Technical High School in North Philadelphia. Born in India and raised across four countries, he moved to Philly in 2017 inspired by the city’s social and environmental justice activism.
Board of Directors
Marci has spent most of her career practicing environmental and agricultural law for the State of New Jersey, including her current job drafting environmental regulations for the New Jersey Pinelands Commission. She played a critical role in the preservation of thousands of acres of farmland and helped create New Jersey’s Right to Farm program. Marci also managed lease and concession agreements on state parkland that provided a wide range of recreational opportunities and amenities to thousands of park visitors each year. An (almost) lifelong Philadelphian, she is excited to lend her experience to an urban setting and assist POP in furthering its mission in the city she loves.
Jena is a Black, Queer, Femme, community organizer who uses her love of food to connect with neighbors. She moved to Philadelphia in 2015 with an ambitious goal of feeding grassroots organizers across the city. Jena first began working with POP as a caterer in 2016 and then continued to participate in events and lead cooking classes as part of POP’s educational programming. She joined POP’s Board of Directors in 2019. She is one of the co-founders of The West Philly Bunnyhop, a mutual aid organization that conducts and facilitates free, fresh produce distribution events to neighbors throughout Philadelphia. She is also COO at Riverwards Produce Market and works as a consultant for The Reinvestment Fund’s Philadelphia Food Justice Initiative. Any day that she’s able to connect with people through food is a good day for her.
Rose Cuozzo first heard about POP as a member of The Junior League of Philadelphia. During her time with the League, she has led member recruitment as well as education and volunteer training programs. Professionally, Rose helps organizations share their stories, creating deeper connections with stakeholders. She’s worked with a number of nonprofit organizations including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Teach for America and Kaiser Permanente.
Daniel is a management consultant at PwC. Although not originally from Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love became his adopted home when he moved in 2013. As a first-generation college student, he is focused on progress and strives to leave people, places, and things better than how he found them. Daniel is committed to ensuring that his adopted home has more green space and access to sustainable food today than it did yesterday.
Maku Ali has dedicated most of her career in service to individuals with disabilities in Pennsylvania. Maku pivoted her wealth of experience in the Accounting and Finance world to give voice to some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Maku currently serves as the CEO of KenCCID, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote dignity and choice to empower Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to reach their full potential. This collaboration with the POP family to help the local Philadelphia community become better stewards of our natural resources is a perfect fit. Joining POP as a Board Member will continue to expand her passion for service – this time to Mother Earth.
Angelina Conti is an educator with over ten years of experience in the nonprofit sector. She is the Director of Digital Learning for UPenn Arts & Sciences and also volunteers with literacy and urban agriculture nonprofits in Philadelphia. Angelina is a Master Gardener in Pennsylvania and completed her Permaculture Design Certificate while working at a small independent school in California. She’s a third generation Philadelphian and feels enormously lucky to be rooted here.
Tony Dorman is an independent Project Management consultant, having worked for companies such as Sprint, HP and ADP over the past twenty years. He has served as an Orchard Liaison since 2014, working with the Tilden Elementary and Philadelphia Montessori schools.
Elan Drennon is a New Jersey native. She most recently served as the Director of Governance on the Innovation and Experience Team within Talent and Learning at Comcast. She previously served as Director of Partnerships for Professional Learning and Leadership at Rowan University’s Learning Resource Center. Prior to Rowan, Elan served as Senior Manager of Student Equity Initiatives and School Climate Strategy for the Camden City School District. Her work has focused on developing and implementing policy, research, and development of people-focused systems ranging from operations to student rights, access, and equity. Elan began her career in education as a third-grade teacher in Camden after time spent working at the Office of Justice Programs. Elan is an alumna of Fordham University and American University’s Washington College of Law.
Andrew Figueiredo was born and raised in Kansas to two Portuguese immigrants. He is currently an Associate at Dechert LLP, practicing antitrust law and focusing his pro bono work on voting rights. As an undergraduate at McGill University, Andrew was inspired by Wendell Berry and Pope Francis to get involved in urban agriculture. There, he volunteered at the Montreal-based community food hub Santropol Roulant. After undergrad, Andrew moved to Philadelphia to attend the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and became a Lead Orchard Volunteer with POP. In his downtime, Andrew enjoys cooking, reading, exercising, and writing; his work has been featured in publications like Front Porch Republic and Alternet.
Gillian Golson is a Fitness Professional with a background in non-profit fundraising, community organizing, and volunteer management. While Gillian currently owns and runs her own small fitness business in Philadelphia, she previously worked at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the African American Museum in Philadelphia in Development roles. She first learned about POP from a friend who recently served on the Board of Directors and was immediately interested in how POP serves the Philadelphia community.
Craig has produced and directed more than 45 award-winning videos, interactive exhibits, museum installations, nature centers and wildlife habitats. You may have seen his projects if you have visited the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center, DuPont Environmental Education Center, Independence Visitor Center, the African-American Museum of Philadelphia, William Cramp Community School, and the PSE&G Energy & Environmental Resource Center. Currently, his work is focused on creating wildlife habitats, learning landscapes and nature sanctuaries for schools, parks, and libraries. Craig’s studio, Interpret Green, is located at Glen Fern, a 1750s historic house in Fairmount Park next to the Wissahickon Creek in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia.
Nate is a farmer, plant breeder, activist, and co-founder of the non-profit Experimental Farm Network (EFN). He was born in Philadelphia and lives and farms today in Elmer, NJ. A graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, he has worked a wide range of jobs from theater to politics to union organizing to disaster relief. EFN facilitates collaborative research in sustainable agriculture, plant breeding, and climate change mitigation, especially through the development of perennial staple crops.
A true Renaissance woman – artist, professor, manager, and farmer – Michelle is interested in sustainability, change management, food systems, risk management, human resources management, information systems, and training and development among other things. She serves in a variety of capacities including as Mandela Washington Fellows Lecturer for Drexel University; IREX Reciprocal Exchange Awardee for ongoing work in Ghana; and in Operations, North America for IDP Connect. Michelle joined the board in 2015 and supports POP’s community and educational programs and other governance related issues.
Loretta Lewis was born in Philadelphia to a family that worshipped at the historic Union Baptist Church in South Philadelphia, and currently serves as a Trustee. Social activism has been her life passion for over 70 years. She picketed the Army Recruitment Center protesting Jim Crow practices in the armed services, volunteered with the Black Panther’s Community Breakfast Program and is a charter member of the Women of Color Caucus Against Domestic Violence representing the Caucus nationally and internationally. Loretta also served as Board Chairperson of Women Against Abuse, working with this agency for more than 20 years. She served as co-chair of the Bread and Roses Board of Directors and as their representative to Women’s Way. Loretta served on the Women Gather planning committee and is a member of the African Sisterhood. Loretta and her husband were married for 55 years. She has two adult daughters, 9 grand children, and 5 great-grandchildren. Her son Craig preceded her in death. Loretta’s passion for service continues.
Brian Olszak is a Senior Trails & Open Space Planner with the Montgomery County Planning Commission. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University, where he teaches Geographic Information Systems and Open Space and Trails Planning. He first started volunteering with POP in 2010 when he worked nights at a military academy library, and he’s been hooked ever since. Outside of POP, Brian appreciates motorcycles, his own garden, New Deal art, vinyl records, and his emerging interest in biophilic planning and design. He previously served on the Board of POP from 2011-2016, including as Board President, as well as chair of his neighborhood zoning committee. He has an M.S. in Community & Regional Planning from Temple University and a B.A. in English and Philosophy.
Inella is the Director of Parent Advocacy & Engagement at Children First, where she works with parents across southeastern Pennsylvania to inform policy recommendations centered on Pennsylvania children. As a Philadelphia native and a proud product of the Philadelphia School District, Inella understands the power of what happens when we invest today in tomorrow’s generation. This understanding has led her to build a career around protecting the potential of those most vulnerable amongst us – children – through advocacy and service. This ethos has propelled Inella to be an active citizen. Inella is thrilled to serve on the Philadelphia Orchard Project board and looks forward to using her education, governance, and strategic planning skillset to advance POP’s mission. In her spare time, Inella enjoys biking, comedy, reading, and traveling! She lives in West Philadelphia with her partner, Desmond, and her cat, Negus!
Julie Ulrich serves as a founding Director of Urban Conservation at The Nature Conservancy. She created one of the first urban conservation programs in the U.S and helped develop TNC’s North America Cities Network, a national network of sustainability efforts across twenty-four cities. Julie has extensive experience in climate and equity centered sustainable planning and design and has worked at the intersection of urbanism, ecology, and the public for over two decades. As a scientist, urban planner, designer, and engineer, her work highlights the interface between social and ecological resiliency, particularly in urban environments adapting to climate change. She has a B.S in Civil and Environmental Engineering, a Masters of Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture and is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy and the Climate and Health Program at The Yale School of Public Health.