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, we envision 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. To find out more about POP’s recent activities, please read our 2020 Annual Report linked below.
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
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.”
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 second Orchard Director in January 2020 after previously working with POP in Orchard Assistant and Apprentice positions. 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 farm director of Mill Creek Farm in West Philadelphia. He has taught a variety of workshops on biochar and other soil building practices. In his current role, Alkebu-Lan provides support and training to city orchards, with a focus on those in West Philadelphia.
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.
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 guide 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.
Corrie joined the POP team in early 2021 as the Education and Outreach Coordinator, bringing with her over ten years of working to connect people with plants. Corrie loves to grow food with others as an act of celebration. She is a farmer, experiential educator, sporadic medicine maker, and aspiring creative. 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 last year and began helping out with POP last summer. She is now 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.
Board of Directors
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 is a Fitness Professional with a background in non-profit fundraising, community organizing, and volunteer management. While she 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.
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.
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.
Ron Whyte is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based environmental activist, advocate and consultant. Founded in 2011, his Deep Green Philly project is an alternative media resource inspired by the Deep Ecology movement. In addition to a strong focus on environmental justice, DGP is also concerned with tracing the cultural and philosophical roots of the environmental crisis. As project coordinator for Trash Academy (a project of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Restored Spaces Initiative), he works with artists, students and local residents to find creative solutions for Philadelphia’s trash, litter and dumping crisis.
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.