About Pop

About Pop

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

POP builds a knowledge-base and culture of orcharding and fruit-growing that connects diverse communities in Philadelphia.

Justice

POP is positioned at the intersection of Philadelphia’s burgeoning food and environmental justice movements, particularly in our focus on serving low-wealth communities.

Permanence

POP plants orchards with partners who share our long-term commitment to communities to create and care for an environmental infrastructure that will endure.

Regeneration

Moving beyond sustainability, POP seeks to regenerate the health of communities, the fertility of the land, and the overall environmental balance throughout Philadelphia.

Beauty

Orchards bring beauty as well as bounty to urban spaces. Orchards embody fundamental cultural yearnings to repair the earth, and with it, its people.

POP History

POP’s first orchard planting in spring 2007!

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.

Timeline

  • 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.

FAQs

  • 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.

Most of the plants we grow in our nursery are intended for planting at community orchard partner sites, and we don’t have a retail nursery with regular hours. A couple of times a year we’ll hold a plant sale (generally in the spring and fall; information will be posted on our Events page). An abbreviated plant list will included on the event description.
We also recently shared on our website our favorite sources for plant materials, including other local or mail-order options (link to Recommended Plant Sources/ Nurseries doc).

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.”

POP Staff

Phil Forsyth

Co-Executive Director

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.

A Woman with glasses and brown hair with flowers and clouds in the background

Kim Jordan

Co-Executive Director

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 neighborhoods across Philadelphia, meeting inspirational 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. Outside of POP, she appreciates the many opportunities the city offers for civic engagement. Kim graduated from the Citizens Planning Institute in Fall 2017, currently serves as a Democratic committee person in Philadelphia’s 31st Ward, and supports mutual aid efforts around food growing and food distribution with Cooperative Gardens Commission and BunnyHopPHL.

A Black person in coveralls and a bright orange hat stands in a snowy meadow

Sharon Appiah

Orchard Manager

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 will be leading the efforts to grow annual crops at the POP Learning Orchard in 2022, and sharing their new-found passion for maple tapping with the POP community.

Corrie Spellman-Lopez

Education Director

Corrie joined the POP team in early 2021, bringing with her 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 is a flower farmer, experiential educator, and sporadic medicine maker. 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.

A woman wearing a green coat, boots and glasses, smiles while crouching down on a bale of hay

Simone Shemshedini

Orchard Assistant

Simone, a transplant from Michigan, had her sights on POP since moving to Philly last year 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 this past season. 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 and now serves as a seasonal Orchard Assistant.

Cortina Mallozzi

Fundraising and Communications Assistant

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 D’Andrea

Orchard Assistant

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!

Michael Muehlbauer

Special Projects Coordinator

Michael Muehlbauer 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. Michael also currently farms with youth in Germantown while serving as the operations manager for Grumblethorpe historic house and gardens. 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 served as an Orchard Director from 2018-2021 and is continuing his work with POP through the development of orchard care resources.

Board of Directors

Michelle Lawson

Board President

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.

Marci Green

Board VP/President-Elect

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.

Daniel Keyes

Board Treasurer

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.

Rose Cuozzo

Board Secretary

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.

Angelina Conti

Board Member

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

Board Member

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.

Gillian Golson

Board Member and External Affairs Committee Co-chair

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.

Jena Annise (J.A.) Harris

Board Member
Jena is a Black, Queer, Femme, community organizer who uses her love of food to connect with neighbors. She moved to Philadelphia in 2015 and through her work as a caterer (foodeveryonedeserves) she was able to continue the work of fusing her passion for feeding people with broader community building efforts and movement work. Jena first began working with POP as a caterer in 2016 and subsequently has participated in a few Strawberry Festivals and has led cooking workshops as part of POP’s educational programming. In 2019, she began working at Riverwards Produce, a market in Fishtown that is a one stop shop for the home chef. Her organizing work has most recently led to Bunny Hop PHL, a community led and supported resource distribution hub that offers weekly food distribution and mutual aid across the city. Always down to collaborate, Jena was awarded the Cooperator of the Year Award in 2019 from Philadelphia Area Cooperative Association.

 

Craig Johnson

Board Member and Internal Affairs Committee Co-chair

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 Kleinman

Board Member

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.

Loretta Lewis

Board Member

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

Board Member and Internal Affairs Committee Co-chair

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.

Julie Ulrich

Board Member

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.  A practitioner that bridges diverse fields, Julie leads multidisciplinary teams that seek to blur conventional boundaries between applied research, environmental justice, urban policy, and design to advance resilient and equitable cities through intersectional climate solutions.   Julie is a Senior Fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program and was named as one of Next City’s Vanguard. 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.

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