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. . .
The Philadelphia Orchard Project plants and supports community orchards in the city of Philadelphia. 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. To find out more about our activities over the last year, please read our 2018 Annual Report.
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
- 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.”
Alyssa Schimmel was hired to serve as Education Director in winter 2017 following two years of interning with POP. In this role, she oversees POP’s school orchard program, expanding educational opportunities through curriculum and workshop development, network building, event planning, and POP publications. A Master Gardener and herbalist with a clinical practice, Alyssa also teaches a year-long course called Wild Wisdom in wild foods and medicines at Awbury Arboretum, where she is working to develop educational curriculum surrounding earth and ancestral skills. She graduated with a B.A. in Communications & Media Studies from the University of Maryland, earned her permaculture design certificate from Starhawk and Charles Williams, and is completing coursework for advanced study in clinical herbal medicine with David Winston’s Center for Herbal Studies.
Michael Muehlbauer was hired as POP’s Orchard Director in January 2018 and brings together a background in sustainable and urban agriculture, edible landscaping, social permaculture, fine gardening, construction, engineering and experience gained from volunteering with a large number of organizations. In addition to his work with POP, Michael also currently farms with youth in Germantown while serving as the operations manager for Grumblethorpe historic house and gardens. Founder of Sustain-a-culture consulting and design, former co-owner of the sustainable and edible landscaping company Contemporary Homestead and core member of the Beacon Food Forest in Seattle, WA, Michael enjoys the practice of social farming and aims to bring community powered food forestry to public land in Philadelphia with the Fair-Amount Food Forest initiative. He began farming with F.H. King Students for Sustainable Agriculture in 2009 and worked as a research farmer in organic and no-till agricultural experiments for two years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he received a Bachelor’s of Science in Agricultural and Biological Systems Engineering.
Alkebu-Lan Marcus was hired as POP’s Orchard Assistant in February 2018. He is a Philadelphia native, born and raised in West Philadelphia. Alkebu-lan first got involved with food justice and urban farming in 2015 and previously served as POP’s Orchard Apprentice in 2016. He has presented at the Black Urban Growers Conference on Biochar and Indigenous Microorganisms. Alkebu-Lan is also currently the farm director of Mill Creek Urban Farm in West Philadelphia, where he provides the 19131 & 19139 community with locally grown produce.
Kim joined the POP staff as Development Director in January 2019, and became Co-Executive Director in October 2019. 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. While in school Kim began volunteering with POP, and after planting and tending trees in many of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, meeting inspiring community groups and growers, and falling in love with the city, she decided to call it home. She served on POP’s Board from 2009-2016, including terms as Board President and Treasurer, and most recently worked as Development Manager at Fairmount Park Conservancy. While at the Conservancy Kim worked with Get Healthy Philly and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation to launch We Walk PHL, free community-led walking groups in city parks. She appreciates the many opportunities the city offers to become civically engaged. Kim graduated from the Citizens Planning Institute in Fall 2017, was elected in May 2018 as a Democratic committee person in Philadelphia’s 31st Ward, and serves on the Fishtown Neighbors Association Beautification Committee.
Board of Directors
After serving on the POP board from 2009-2015, Anne rejoined the board in 2017. An attorney by day, Anne loves turning her non-work time to POP, and remains impressed at the continued growth in the breadth and depth of POP’s partnerships and educational programming, as POP consistently pursues its mission of planting and supporting community orchards in the City of Philadelphia.
Angelina Conti is an educator with over ten years of experience in the nonprofit sector. She works in digital learning at the University of Pennsylvania 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.
Bertina is a Recreation Therapist with Mercy Life West Philadelphia. Motivated by a desire to serve her adopted community, Bertina joined The Junior League of Philadelphia in 2003, and has served in various leadership positions in the league. She learned about POP through its community partnership with The Junior League by attending a Junior League Wide Service Day at a POP orchard. She joined POP in 2013 as a board member and served as POP Board President in 2017.
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. Michelle joined the board in 2015 and supports POP’s community and educational programs and other governance related issues.
Chloe Cerwinka is a Landscape Planner at the University of Pennsylvania, where she’s spearheading efforts to make Penn more sustainable through improved landscape management methods, bicycle infrastructure and increased diverse and productive plantings. She is devoted to her hometown of Philadelphia, returning in 2010 to farm for her childhood food co-op at Weaver’s Way Farm, and later co-founded Heritage Farm, a 1.5 acre urban community farm. Chloe is also a member of the Horticulture Committee at Bartram’s Gardens. She received her B.A. in Design of the Environment from Penn, and worked as an architectural designer for ten years before seeing the light.
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.
Michael Drennan spent over 30 years in the investment management business before retiring to join his wife, Carolyn Walker, as the co-manager of Carolyn’s Shade Gardens in Bryn Mawr, PA. Their boutique plant nursery specializes in shade perennials and native plants. Mr. Drennan has served on several boards and is excited to assist the Philadelphia Orchard Project to help further their mission.
Marci spent more than 20 years practicing environmental and agricultural law for the State of New Jersey. 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.
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.
Jane Mackie joined POP’s board in 2017. She is a (Sustaining) member of the Junior League of Philadelphia.
Julie Ulrich oversees a new initiative for The Nature Conservancy that researches, designs, and implements nature-based solutions for cities. She is committed to the belief that built and natural environments are deeply tied and must equitably benefit all communities. Julie has extensive experience in sustainable planning and design and has worked at the intersection of urbanism, ecology, and the public for over ten years. Julie is a Senior Fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program and was named as one of Next City’s Vanguard. She speaks nationally and internationally on sustainable design, green urbanism, and the link between social and ecological resiliency. She has a Master’s of Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture and a B.S. in Environmental Engineering.