POPHarvest Program Update 2018-19

Posted on Categories Blog, Harvesting, Home, Plants, Wild EdiblesTags , , , ,

The POPHarvest gleaning program has taken a few turns and this year ventured into new fruiterritory, launching a new POPHarvestEd workshop series! The POPHarvest program, first piloted in 2014, is focused on picking and distributing fruit that would otherwise go to waste. These programs have taken two primary forms: distributing excess production from regional commercial orchards and educating about abundant but overlooked city fruit. In previous years, POP had developed relationships with some larger scale commercial orchards that would allow groups of POP volunteers to harvest otherwise unused portions of their production for donation to local emergency food services. This opportunity has unfortunately been on hold the past few seasons and while attempting to rekindle this, we’ve adjusted to further highlighting more unusual, yet abundantly available plants that grow in the city.  

POPHarvest events in 2018 focused on abundant but often overlooked city fruits, including crabapples, juneberries, mulberries, and hawthorns.

In 2018, we hosted our 3rd annual week long Juneberry Joy campaign, harvesting 118 pounds of juneberries with volunteers at 9 locations across the city, followed by a two-part Mulberry Madness yielding 51 pounds. These yields were utilized by a variety of local partners to create magical, edible and drinkable concoctions ranging from ice cream to kombucha, demonstrating the culinary value of these lesser utilized fruits. In the fall, POP engaged in two crabapple harvests, totaling 242 pounds, much of which was donated and turned into applesauce by Sunday Suppers, a culinary education program serving families at risk of food insecurity. Other group harvests included 25 lbs of hawthorn, and small paw paw and persimmon gleans, all supplemented with discussions of recipes, preservation, and other uses. For many of these lesser utilized orchard and regional gleaning opportunities, we have produced info sheets available on POP’s website to extend the reach of our educational efforts. These sheets contain plant facts, seasonal care tips, nutritional information and propagation or usage recommendations.  

If you’re interested in getting involved with gleaning efforts, please join our POPHarvest email list or reach out to michael@phillyorchards.org.

Introducing POPHarvestEd!

To expand upon what we at POP can share with our communities in the POPHarvest program, we piloted a new POPHarvestEd community harvest education program in fall of 2018. This workshop series brings in community teachers to lead gleaning workshops focused on sharing cultural, culinary, and medicinal uses of lesser known fruits, nuts, and herbs that are widely available through POP orchards and the Philadelphia region. In this effort, we are able to provide a platform for more diverse expertise, traditions, experiences and viewpoints concerning lesser known harvests in our region. We believe all people have something to learn and teach, and we celebrate the many ways people come to knowledge in their own unique experience and time. This season we held four of these workshops on the topics of Ginkgo berry processing, Trifoliate Orange based fire cider, Herbal Oxymels, and Black Walnut processing for edibility, fabric dye, wood stain and medicinal properties.

The POPHarvestEd workshop series features community educators sharing cultural, culinary, and medicinal knowledge about abundant but lesser known fruits and orchard plants.

In 2019, the POPHarvestEd community education program is looking for 8-10 teachers to share workshop proposals that would include info on selected plant(s), group harvesting, and food or medicine crafting. POP has been able to pay teachers a flat rate and sponsor ServSafe certification for workshop facilitators while offering these workshops on a sliding scale for attendees. If you’re interested in leading a POPHarvestEd workshop this year, please reach out to alyssa@phillyorchards.org or michael@phillyorchards.org for more info.

List of potential plants for 2019 POPHarvestEd programs:

FRUIT/NUTS

gingko

trifoliate orange

mulberry

juneberry/serviceberry

crabapple

aronia / chokeberry

black walnuts

acorns

elderberry

grapes / grape leaves

ORCHARD HERBS/WEEDS

fennel

lemon balm

bee balm

anise hyssop

peppermint

comfrey

lemon balm

bayberry

raspberry leaf

blackberry leaf (root)

mulberry leaf

peach leaf

japanese knotweed

burdock

yellow dock

dandelion

This blog post written by Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer.

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.  

Aphids and Fruit Trees

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Aphids are a common pest an a wide variety of fruit trees, shrubs, vines, vegetables, and more!

Leaves curled end to end are the most common sign of aphid damage. 

Ants in your tree are another sure sign of aphid infestation, as their only interest in climbing trees is to harvest honeydew (sweet aphid droppings).  The one exception is fig trees, where they can sometimes also feed on overripe fruit.
Aphids are tiny insects that suck sap from leaves, causing plant stress than can result in curled and distorted leaves, flowers, and fruit.  They can also sometimes spread viruses and their honeydew droppings can lead to sooty mold on leaves. Aphids come in many colors: green, black, gray, pink, yellow, some even a fluffy white.  Minor infestations often go away without any extra effort, but more severe cases may require management.  Aphids affect many vegetables and ornamental plants as well as fruit trees.
Image result for aphids

Aphids are tiny insects that come in many colors. 

APHID CONTROL

Spray Water.  A strong stream of water can knock aphids off leaves and greatly reduce their populations.  Be sure to hit the bottom of the leaves, as that’s where most are found.  As always, avoid wetting leaves during the heat of day.

Beneficial Insects.  Plant a pollinator garden to attract a variety of native predators and parasites to keep aphids and other pest insects populations under control.  For bad infestations, you might also consider releasing purchased insects like lacewings, aphid midges, parasitic wasps, or ladybugs.  Read our article on insect releases here:

Rosy Apple Aphids are one of the more common species affecting apple trees.

Dormant Oil.  If you have a lot of aphid problems this season, consider spraying a dormant oil on your trees in late winter of next year.  This is the most effective means of smothering overwintering eggs and thus reducing pest populations for the next growing season.  Read our article on dormant oil here:

Neem Oil.  For treatment of bad aphid infestations during the growing season, consider spraying neem oil at 2% concentration.  Read our article about neem oil application here:


This blog post prepared by POP Executive Director Phil Forsyth. 

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

Fig winter die-back and spring pruning

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After a rough winter with some single digit temperatures, we’re very pleased to see most of the figs in the city sprouting new growth!  The amount of winter damage has been very variable from site to site and even one tree to another.  Some are sprouting high on the tree:

Some are only sprouting from the roots at the base:

And some even have survived well enough to set an early Breba fig crop:

Early Breba fig crop forming at Earth’s Keepers Farm in West Philly, May 2018.

The amount of fig winter damage depends primarily on location and microclimate (proximity to thermal mass like walls or wind protection) as well as whether the figs were wrapped or otherwise protected for the winter.  Although most established figs should have survived, some fig crops are likely to be greatly reduced this year.  Some cultivars with shorter growing seasons (like Chicago Hardy, Celeste, Takoma Violet, etc) are more likely to regrow and fruit in the same year.

If you still haven’t seen any signs by late May, I’d still give it the month of June before giving up completely.
HOW TO PRUNE WINTER DAMAGE ON FIGS 
Once it is clear where the regrowth is occurring, cut back your figs to just above any signs of green leaf or bud growth using loppers, handsaw, or pruners.  Reddish-brown wood is always dead and should definitely be removed.  In some cases, this could mean removing most or all of the branches after a harsh winter.  Good news is that figs are quite resilient plants and if they survived the winter, they are likely to make a full recovery.  A lot of winter damage is likely to result in a reduced crop and hopefully inspire greater effort at winter protection next year!  For more information on winter protection strategies and growing figs in cold climates, see our previous article:
https://www.phillyorchards.org/2009/10/17/fresh-figs-for-cold-climates/
And our primer on some favorite fig cultivars for Philadelphia:
https://www.phillyorchards.org/2017/12/05/pop-fig-varieties-and-introducing-megan-brookens-a-fellow-fig-lover/

This blog post was written by POP Executive Director Phil Forsyth. 

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.

2018 POP Winter Newsletter

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“Many families, staff and volunteers were able to taste a fresh fig for the first time! They were all surprised at the difference between a fresh fig and a fig newton.” — Carolann Costa, Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House

Happy Figuary!  We thank you for supporting our vision of a more beautiful, bountiful Philadelphia. Here are some highlights from POP’s fall season: 

  • Planted our 1,206th fruit tree and supported our 59th community orchard site!
  • Celebrated our 7th annual Philadelphia Orchard Week with over 1800 participants at harvest festivals and orchard events across the city
  • Assisted with brand new orchard plantings with the Norris Square Neighborhood Project and South Philadelphia High School
  • POP’s new school orchard program published our first complete orchard-based lesson plan
  • Celebrated POP’s 10th Anniversary and were featured in PHS’s GROW Magazine
We hope you will take a few minutes to read below about some of the interesting people and stories we encountered along the way. 

FALL 2017 SEASON SUMMARY


ORCHARD PLANTINGS

POP’s core work of planting and supporting community orchards in the city continues to grow, and we are now working with 59 different orchard sites in neighborhoods across the city! 204 volunteers joined with us and our partners at 14 orchard planting events this fall. Brand new orchards were planted with the Norris Square Neighborhood Project and South Philadelphia High School. We also expanded existing orchard sites at Bartram’s Garden, Tilden Middle School, Bartram High School, Pastorius Community Gardens, Monumental Baptist Church, Lea Elementary, Sayre High School, Penn Park, and Jewish Farm School. To read more about our orchard partners and view a map of POP sites: phillyorchards.org/orchards.


SCHOOL ORCHARD PROGRAM

2017 was the kickoff year for POP’s new School Orchard Program. Education Director Alyssa Schimmel collaborated with POP’s 12 city school orchard partners to begin developing a database of materials to activate the orchards as centers of learning and exploration. Across all sites, POP was able to teach 250 students through 44 school visits, with 14 formal lessons delivered in 2017. Read more about POP’s new school orchard program here! 


ORCHARD EDUCATION

POP continues to educate our orchard partners through diverse offerings including orchard care workshops, consulting visits by POP staff, POP TIPS shared through the Philadelphia Orchard Group (PHOG), and the Philadelphia Orchard Project Blog. This season’s educational programs included workshops on jam-making, fruit tree care, permaculture, and harvest and use of orchard plants. Join us for our upcoming 4-part POPCORE orchardist training course at Bartram’s Garden in March!


ORCHARD WEEK & HARVEST FESTIVALS

This year we celebrated our 7th annual Philadelphia Orchard Week with over 1800 participants at orchard sites across the city. Events included orchard plantings, work days, harvest festivals, cider pressing, plant sale, crafts and games, volunteer opportunities, and more!  In addition to POP’s 10th Anniversary Celebration in September, we also kicked off the holiday season with a Winter Wassailing event at Awbury Arboretum in December. Join us for our first ever Fig Fest coming up on February 24!


ORCHARD PARTNER STORIES

Every year we ask our orchard partners to reflect on the year in the orchard, and to share stories about what the orchard is providing for their community:

“We have three sweet cherry trees that had a great harvest this year. Fruit gets a lot more attention & excitement than vegetables, which spread to our surrounding community. The cherry harvesting was a large gathering event, and we had people of all ages picking off cherries. Many people did not know that cherries came from trees. A lot of neighborhood children got to climb the tree to pick off the cherries, which one of them told me was a “magical experience”.

— Marta Lynch, FNC Poplar Learning Farm

Read more partner stories here!


2017 Orchard Partner Survey Summary

Results of our 5th annual partner survey provided valuable feedback showing the impact of POP’s programs and guiding our efforts to provide the best support to our partners. This year ‘Beauty and Neighborhood Greening’ was rated as the highest value of the orchard spaces. Partners reported 4385 individuals participated in caring for POP orchards in 2017 (twice last year’s total); another 4681 tasted something grown in a POP orchard; and 5386 used them as a gathering space. The survey again showed that almost all orchard produce is distributed within the neighborhood where it’s grown, including 57% harvested by or given for free to community members. POP partners reported total harvests of 3689 pounds of orchard produce. 81% of POP partners participated in the survey this year and as a thank you, POP is distributing a requested orchard item, including pruning tools, pole harvesters, produce scales, and guidebooks to all participants.

Read more survey results here!


POP Blog

POP’s urban orchard blog continues to cover a variety of topics in ecological orchard care as well as highlight our plants, programs, partners, and volunteers.  You can follow our blog or search it for past topics.  Some recent posts include:

POP Orchard Feature: Jewish Farm School

POP History 2016 & Volunteer Highlight: Angelina Conti

POP History 2015 & Volunteer Highlight: Tony Dorman

POP Fig Varieties and Introducing Megan Brookens: A Fellow Fig Lover!

POP History 2014 & Volunteer Highlight: Ryan Kuck

Fall Foraging: Crabapples and Gingko Nuts and Leaves


WAYS YOU CAN HELP!

Your Amazon purchases can benefit POP at no cost to you. 

You can direct Amazon to give a percentage of all purchases to POP.

Workplace donations through United Way, Earthshare, Benevity

POP can now accept workplace donations via United Way (#53494), Earthshare, and Benevity: ask your employer about how to set up tax-exempt contributions and matching donations to support our work. We are also now able to accept stock transfers, so you can divest, and then invest in planting the future with POP!

Join POP’s Committees

We’re always looking for more good volunteers for POP’s operating committees! To help our Education Committee with developing new blog content, educational materials and curriculum, please contact Alyssa Schimmel (alyssa@phillyorchards.org). To assist our Events Committee with organizing fundraising events or helping with outreach activities, please contact Tanya Grinblat (tanya@phillyorchards.org). Experienced volunteers are invited to join POP’s Orchard Committee and work directly with our orchard partners; for more info contact Michael (michael@phillyorchards.org).

Volunteer at Orchard Plantings and Events

POP’s fall event season will be announced soon! To receive updates about upcoming volunteer opportunities, please sign up for our volunteer list on our website (phillyorchards.org/volunteer/signup).

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.  

How did we do last year? POP’s 2017 Orchard Survey Summary

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, POP OrchardsTags , , , , , , , , , , , ,

POP surveyed all of our orchard partners at season’s end and we’d like to share what we learned this year. In all, 48 of 59 POP partners (81%) participated in our 5th annual Orchard Partner Survey in November and December 2017, which is on par with our response rate in previous years.

Orchard Value

This year, the highest percentage of respondents rated “Beauty and Neighborhood Greening” as having the “highest value” (42%) followed by “Educational Opportunities” (33%), which had held the top spot for the previous four years. Half of respondents rate “Community Health and Nutrition” as being high value, and high ratings were consistent in categories marking the “Environmental Impact” of orchards. We still find that the relatively lower valuation of “Food production and distribution” is somewhat distorted by responses from younger and newly planted orchards that have not yet come into full production and that some older sites are having trouble seeing good yields due to challenges including late frosts, pests and diseases. Some small spaces will obviously be more valued for their educational impact rather than their impact on the food system, while many of our partner sites with more established sites or organizations which are more centered around food access (Weaver’s Way Farm, SHARE Food Program, Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, for example) rated food production and distribution with highest value.

Did you know every POP orchard includes a pollinator garden full of perennial flowers and herbs? This year for the first time our partners reported ‘beauty and neighborhood greening’ as the highest value in our survey. (Penn Park Orchard)

Stories that illustrate the value of POP orchards to our partners were gathered and have common themes of educating and exposing people to freshly grown fruit, the reactions that people have to tasting things for the first time, new relationships that are formed within spaces, and the ways in which children respond to new fruits and creatures. Link here to read some of our favorite POP partner stories from 2017!

Community Involvement

Survey responses indicate that 4,385 people participated at least once in orchard care during the 2017 season. This number doubles last year’s response of 2,200! We saw a 7% increase in monthly orchard care from last year’s numbers, 46% of respondents tend their orchard weekly, and 40% of of them organize monthly workdays. 4,681 people tasted something grown in a partner orchard, which is about the same as last season, while we saw a moderate decrease in educational program participation in orchards. 5,386 people used a POP partner orchard as a gathering space this year, a 25.3% increase over last year!

On average, orchard partners reported that 65.1% of populations served qualify as low-income. Depending on the partner, these numbers were gathered via census data, FMNP voucher collection, HUD criteria, and well-informed estimates. For some sites with public access and a larger draw from out-of-neighborhood visitors, these numbers are harder to assess.

Yield Distribution

As expected from distribution plans submitted in partner applications and the varying missions of partner orchards, distribution methods differ greatly from one group to another. For example, 100% of yields from Tilden Middle School are harvested for free by community members and 50% of produce at Overbrook School for The Blind is sold at an on-site farmstand. Similar to past years, more than half of all yields are distributed to or harvested by community members for free.

In 2017, 31% of orchard yield was harvested for free by community members, 26% distributed for free to community members, 11% lost to pest or diseases, 8% sold at on-site farm stands, 7% went unharvested, 6% processed into value-added products, 4% sold at farmers’ markets, 2% was donated to emergency food pantries, and 1% was sold via Community Supported Agriculture. While the amount harvested free by community members has slightly decreased, the percentage sold at on-site farm stands has increased, which may indicate development of youth and community engagement through jobs and internships.

In 2018, a greater percentage of POP orchard yields were distributed via on-site farmstands, usually as part of youth agricultural entrepreneurship programs. (Grumblethorpe)

Orchard Production

Estimates of yields continue to get better with each passing season, while accurate tracking continues to prove a challenge within spaces visited by large volumes of people and where free harvest is encouraged. POP has taken measures to provide partners with a volume-to-weight conversion chart to aid partners in creating accurate estimates of production, provide orchard notebooks for writing yields down as they are harvested, and gifting scales when asked for in annual tool lotteries.

Based on survey analysis of tree fruits, figs (593 lbs), peaches/nectarines (307 lbs), Asian pears (287 lbs), and paw paws (218 lbs) produced the highest yields. These numbers are partially representative of the frequency in which these fruit trees are planted at POP partners and partially a result of their relative ease of production. This year we saw yield increases of 200% for figs, 145% for pie cherries, 140% for paw paws, and 125% for Asian pears.  We also had our first significant harvest of almonds this season!

Slow to come into production, paw paw trees were one of the bumper orchard harvests this year! (Woodford Mansion)

Several berry and perennial vegetable yields saw a decrease reported, with the notable exception of grapes, gooseberries, and rhubarb. Raspberries (395 lbs), strawberries (173 lbs), and blackberries (125 lbs) continue to yield well, although declines from the previous year likely indicate some management challenges requiring more training and support.

Weather and disease were significant factors in fruit yield this year. Early blooming due to a mild winter combined with late frosts ruined most plum and apricot flowers leading to crop loss.  A very wet spring provided ideal conditions for gray mold on strawberry plants, brown rot in stone fruits (cherries and peaches), and fireblight on apples and pears. Juneberries and apples were also broadly hit by strains of juniper-rosaceae (cedar-apple) rusts.

This year, 21 of 45 tracked species had decreased yields recorded, with the most significant losses from plums, serviceberries, apples, sweet cherries, strawberries, and currants. We saw a decrease in total reported yield, despite 24 orchards indicating their spaces had higher yields than last season. This could indicate changes in methods of tracking and extrapolated estimation for high yields, inconsistent practices, significant losses from certain crops paired unequal increases from others, and/or a shift in perceptions about what constitutes “a yield”.

Orchard yields also include medicinal and culinary herbs, here made into tea sachets as part of a POP orchard lesson plan at Sayre High School.

Culinary and medicinal herb knowledge and tracking has improved. Making more increased use of plants for medicine-making, fiber production, culinary flavoring, and value-added products are ways of expanding yields, orchard value, and overall maintenance! Only 37.5% of respondents indicated they would like more assistance in learning how to make use of their orchard plants, which is significantly lower than the 72% of respondents asking for more assistance last year,  an encouraging indicator of successful educational outreach. Newly, 34 respondents are interested in inoculating their community orchard spaces with edible mushroom spawn.

POP will continue to recommend highest yielding and easiest to maintain plants based on survey data collected, both in current and future orchard designs. The best way to improve yields from all orchard plants and overall yields from orchards will be to increase capacity of orchard partners and community members through educational programming, distribution of educational reference materials, and providing resources in the form of tools, pest and disease control supplies, and interpretive signage. Plant identification, preparation and preservation methods, proper harvest times, and pest and disease management will go a long way, while lesser-known fruits, berries, and herbs could increasingly contribute to snacks, meals, medicines, herbal teas, and winter food security.

Production Challenges and Recommendations

When asked, 22 respondents believe it was easier to maintain their orchards than last year and 26 believe it was more difficult. The highest reported problems include plant diseases (22), weeds (20) squirrels (19), pests (16), peach leaf curl (15), and birds (13). Dedicating more project partner and POP staff time to pest and disease management at a few key partner orchards paired with the production of orchard care videography might help us thoroughly inform more orchard tenders in a shorter amount of time.

Peach Leaf Curl was the most commonly reported specific disease in POP orchards this year. A late frost and a humid spring were partially responsible for declines in production for some orchard plants this year.

Upon closer inspection, it seems that orchards which are more mature and have consistent caretakers across multiple seasons are becoming easier to maintain. Young orchards and spaces undergoing staff transition will inevitably experience difficulty. As the number of POP staff, interns, liaisons, dedicated volunteers, and confident partners continue to grow, we are hopeful that overall capacity and understanding of what it takes to maintain orchard ecosystems will similarly expand, along with understanding the importance of patience, routine, time taken for observation, preventative care, and yield utilization.

Expanding Orchard and Permaculture Education Efforts

In March 2017, POP piloted our 4-part Community Orchard Resilience Education (POPCORE) course for the first time after 89% of respondents from 2016 had expressed interest in participating. We offered each class at least one other time throughout the year, but unfortunately, we find that 60% of this year’s respondents weren’t able to attend. About 85% of 2017 respondents would like to participate in POPCORE when offered again, and there was an even split between whether a 4-week course or classes spread out throughout the season are preferable.

While primary barriers to participation include time availability and location, the utilization of indoor classroom space at a variety of locations or with centrally located partners may improve attendance, while video production may help reach those interested, yet unable to attend. We will continue to offer this series in a variety of options.

With continued high interest from community partners, the new 4-part POPCORE urban orchardist certification program will be offered again in multiple formats in 2018. (FNC Poplar Farm)

Organizational Improvement

On a scale from 1 to 10,  POP rated at a 9.1 once again. Partners continue to believe that POP staff are supportive and easy to reach, though there are always ways to improve. From data and direct experience, more intensive pest & disease management practices, educational resources including hard copies and POPCORE training, signage, dissemination, and the planting of resilient and low maintenance specimens should occur, while pressure from many of these issues increased this past year. POP will continue to build educational programs, published materials and online presence with detailed information and photographs to guide partners through orchard maintenance and challenges. New photo scouting guides for apple, pear, peach, plum, and cherry tree pest and diseases will be distributed this spring to POP partner sites and POPCORE participants.

Support us

If you find 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

Orchard Partner Stories: a look back at 2017

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Every year we ask our orchard partners to reflect on the season and to share stories with us about what the orchard provides for their community. Below are some of our favorite excerpts from 2017 celebrating the beauty, abundance, and power of orchards to serve as an engaging place of discovery and connection.

 

FNC Learning Farm @ 8th & Poplar

We have three sweet cherry trees that had a great harvest this year. Fruit gets a lot more attention & excitement than vegetables, which spread to our surrounding community. The cherry harvesting was a large gathering event, and we had people of all ages picking off cherries. Many people did not know that cherries came from trees. A lot of neighborhood children got to climb the tree to pick off the cherries, which one of them told me was a “magical experience”.

— Marta Lynch

Cherry harvest at FNC Learning Farm

Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House – Erie Branch

We had a family stay with us from the midwest with a 10 year old wheelchair bound patient. The patient was upset because she had to miss her field trip to a farm while she was in Philly receiving treatment. We asked her to help us pick strawberries and June berries from our orchard. She was very happy to help!

Later in the season we had quite a few international families staying with us. The families loved to cook their own food. We introduced them to the herb garden and they loved it! A few of the families used the medicinal herbs for teas and poultices.

Many families, staff and volunteers were able to taste a fresh fig for the first time! They were all surprised at the difference between a fresh fig and a fig newton.

Carolann Costa

 

PhillyEarth @ The Village of Arts & Humanities

This year was one of the largest peach harvests we have ever had. Our students had an opportunity to make peach cobbler with freshly harvested peaches and many neighborhood residents were regularly harvesting peaches for their families.

— Jon Hopkins

 

Pastorius Community Gardens

Along the edge of the garden we planted a row of raspberries during the Spring planting. They filled out wonderfully and bore tons of fruit all throughout the growing season. Our gardeners were delighted, and several of them who manage their diabetes, were especially happy to have a source of a healthy berry sugar substitute. Because we don’t have a fence, lots of visitors to the garden got to pick the berries and partake in their delicious flavor. Their taste often surprised people, not at all the store-bought berry!

— Vita Litvak

Berry vision at Overbrook School for the Blind!

Overbrook School for The Blind

This year our Fig trees did well and the two students who were working Farm to Table were very excited. They graduated but came back to volunteer for our Garden clean-up weekend and they were thrilled to see all the ripe figs. They harvested the figs and Anthony’s Restaurant in Drexel Hill agreed to buy them. The 2 students went with the staff person to deliver the figs to the restaurant. The students were very proud and excited. Anthony’s even put a picture of the figs on their website!

— Roseann McLaughlin

 

Awbury Arboretum

I can tell you from first hand experience that the fruits from the orchard are a huge draw for visitors at the Ag Village. Youngsters are much more inclined to try fruits or herbs, than they are vegetables. Volunteers from Teen Inc said “no thanks” to veggies but specifically asked for fruit to try.  POP’s figs were just the ticket. That was their snack after a couple of hours of volunteer service late one afternoon in September. The kids were so grateful, more so I feel, then if I gave them something “packaged”.

That fig tree is like a burning bush in the desert! Everyone loves to stand around it to pick and eat the fruit, and because it fruits over a long stretch of time, and the fruit is often in various stages of development, I like to describe how to tell when the fruit is ripe.  

— Leslie Cerf

 

Edible Belmont

Yesterday we saw a woman marveling at a persimmon on the sidewalk and looking around to find the source. She excitedly stuck it in her purse and flagged us down when she saw us on the porch. “Do you know what this is?” she exclaimed. “My son just brought one of these home from school and I had never seen it before. I couldn’t believe it when I saw this tree!”

Abundant persimmon harvest at Preston’s Paradise in Edible Belmont.

Weavers Way Farm

This was by far the best year for our paw paw trees! We introduced the fruit to so many people at our farm market. People who were already familiar with the fruit were ecstatic to see it on the table, and people who were not familiar with it were intrigued to give it a try!

— Nina Berryman

 

KleinLife 

The week after memorial day, it had been raining all weekend, and my first day back to the orchard I noticed a bunch of clumps under our oak trees in our wood chip patch. Upon further inspection, the clumps were loads of wine-cap mushrooms!! We had inoculated the wood chip patch in the orchard the previous fall, but I had all but given up after I had expected mushrooms to come up in April. That week, our Cook for a Friend program prepared loads of wine-cap mushroom soup and gravy with our meals that benefit homebound older adults. The mushrooms were gorgeous in color, tasted great, and kept coming up for a couple of weeks — it was such a delight!

—John Eskate

 

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.

POP History 2016 & Volunteer Highlight: Angelina Conti

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“That’s what keeps me coming back: the Bartram Orchard and Sankofa Farm offer beauty, nourishment, self-determination and community now, but they also move thoughtfully and intentionally towards an uncertain future.”
-Angelina Conti, 2016 Golden Persimmon Volunteer

In honor of the Philadelphia Orchard Project’s 10th anniversary in 2017, we’re looking back at a different year in our history every month.  We’re also designating Golden Persimmon Awards for each year in recognition of the extraordinary efforts of our volunteers.

At POP’s first ever Juneberry Joy Week in 2016, POP celebrated this underappreciated and abundant city fruit with harvest events at 7 locations across the city!

Philadelphia Orchard Project History: 2016
In 2016, POP expanded our internship program and added a new Orchard Apprentice position.  We celebrated our first ever Juneberry Joy Week with harvest events at 7 locations across the city and value-added partnerships with local businesses.  POP held our first annual Orchard Dinner, a co-fundraiser with the Farm at Bartram’s Garden.  A new partnership with the West Philly Tool Library made orchard tools & equipment more accessible to our orchard partners and the public.  POPHarvest gleaned and distributed over 5000 pounds of fruit, largely through a new partnership with Linvilla Orchards.  Combined with 5000 pounds produced in POP orchards across the city in 2016, that’s over 10,000 pounds of fresh fruit!

POP ORCHARDS PLANTED in 2016: Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, Kleinlife Community Center, Monumental Baptist Church, Penn Alexander School, CHOP Karabots, Jewish Farm School

56 POP ORCHARD SITES SUPPORTED IN 2016

2016 Media Coverage: Philadelphia Citizen
2016 POP NEWSLETTERS: SummerWinter
2016 GOLDEN PERSIMMON VOLUNTEER:  Angelina Conti
2016 POP BOARD PRESIDENT: Aron Goldschneider

Between production at POP orchards and POPHarvest gleaning events, a total of over 10,000 pounds of fresh fruit was harvested in 2016!

POP VOLUNTEER HIGHLIGHT: Angelina Conti

Bartram’s Garden often feels like a green and lush oasis perched on the lower Schuylkill River, an almost-secret garden with clear views of Center City and reminders of its urban and industrial context all around.  Row homes and apartment buildings are visible from the orchard and a glance across the river reveals oil tanks and a natural gas facility. There are two freight lines that run near the property and their clanging and shrieking has underscored many an orchard volunteer day.

The juxtaposition of fruit trees and farm fields with fossil fuel industry and dense urban neighborhoods is one I cherish – it’s what this work is all about.

When volunteers at the orchard at Bartram’s Garden ask me what I do, besides coordinate volunteer days, they are often surprised when I say that I’m a digital learning specialist. Urban orchard care may seem to be a far cry from online learning, but I see them as contiguous. Both assume that human bodies and minds deserve accessible and meaningful nourishment and self-determination, and both build towards a future where that is more possible.

I connected with POP through the Master Gardeners program in 2014 and started to volunteer as the Bartram Orchard liaison that spring. I had missed the planting of the orchard and the founding of the Farm, in 2011 and 2012, and many of the fruit trees were young and not yet productive. Then and now, one of the primary tasks for volunteers is weeding around the base of the trees. That’s a fairly low-drama and repetitive task, but the setting couldn’t be more pleasant: the Bartram orchard is perched on a sunny hillside between the historic house, the Sankofa Community Farm on a former baseball diamond, and the community garden. It never ceases to amaze me how many people are happy to sit in the shade of fruit trees, their hands in the dirt, and weed for hours at a time.

2016 POP Golden Persimmon volunteer Angelina Conti has helped to supervise monthly work days at the Bartram’s Garden orchard since 2015!

I have continued to volunteer at the Bartram orchard largely because it, and the youth-powered farm it is attached to, are as loyal to this urban context and to current neighbors as to the historicity of the site. The intention with the orchard was not necessarily to plant trees that John Bartram himself would have grown in the 1700s  – though we do have some antique varieties – but to showcase all the weird and wonderful things that will grow in Philadelphia today. And it is quite a variety: Bartram Orchard alone has over 130 fruit and nut trees and more than 35 different species of fruit growing in the orchard and berry garden. This includes more supermarket-familiar fruits like apples, peaches, pears, plums and cherries, but also jujubes, shipova, figs, persimmons, che fruit, medlars, and native species like juneberries, paw paws, and elderberries. Many of them are dwarf trees and (nearly) all of them do well in an urban setting.

We are lucky that the Philadelphia area offers a confluence of good soil and negotiable USDA zones that allow us to grow such a variety here. We’re less lucky that the extremities of climate change will mean unpredictable seasons for the foreseeable future – for generations. Facing a future like that makes orchard diversity even more important. We may lose the apricot crop due to a late frost one year (as we did in 2017) but have an abundant harvest with other crops. The growing happening at Bartram, like at all POP orchards, is designed to be replicable in backyards and gardens around the city, even as climate change shapes Philadelphia in new and scary ways.

That’s what keeps me coming back: the Bartram Orchard and Sankofa Farm offer beauty, nourishment, self-determination and community now, but they also move thoughtfully and intentionally towards an uncertain future.

That, and it is also a special privilege to witness someone’s first taste of a fresh fig!

Fresh figs for all!

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.

POP History 2015 & Volunteer Highlight: Tony Dorman

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“I get to plant a tree that a child could someday take shade under, play on, breathe easier, and eat fresh fruit because of it?  Sign me up! ”
-Tony Dorman, 2015 Golden Persimmon Volunteer

In honor of the Philadelphia Orchard Project’s 10th anniversary in 2017, we’re looking back at a different year in our history every month.  We’re also designating Golden Persimmon Awards for each year in recognition of the extraordinary efforts of our volunteers.

2015 planting at the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, POP’s first ever raised bed orchard!
Philadelphia Orchard Project History: 2015
In 2015, POP planted its 1000th fruit tree and supported its 50th city orchard!  POP also co-sponsored the first ever full Permaculture Design Course held in Philadelphia and hosted Dave Jacke (author of Edible Forest Gardens) for a talk and a tour of POP orchards.  Our new POPHarvest program expanded, gleaning and distributing over 4000 lbs of fruit from sites in and around the city.  POP also published our long-awaited urban orchard weed identification guide and hired Tanya Grinblat as our new Development Associate.

POP ORCHARDS PLANTED in 2015:  Lea Elementary, Philadelphia Montessori Charter School, Casa del Carmen, Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, and Tilden Middle School
51 POP ORCHARD SITES SUPPORTED IN 2015
2015 Media Coverage: WHYY Friday Arts Video 
2015 POP NEWSLETTERS: SummerWinter
2015 GOLDEN PERSIMMON VOLUNTEER:  Tony Dorman
2015 POP BOARD PRESIDENT: Brian Olszak

POP co-sponsored Philadelphia’s first ever full Permaculture Design Course in 2015 and Edible Forest Gardens author Dave Jacke participated in a tour of POP sites across North Philadelphia.

POP VOLUNTEER HIGHLIGHT: Tony Dorman

Tony Dorman first volunteered with POP in 2014 and is a dedicated member of POP’s Orchard Committee.  He serves as the lead orchard liaison for Tilden Middle School, Bartram High School, and Philadelphia Montessori Charter School.  Read more about Tony in his previous volunteer highlight post.

My participation with POP began with a desire to help children; thankfully, that has been a theme of sorts during my time with POP.  The first time I volunteered at a POP activity was at Bartram’s Garden (a hidden jewel of Philadelphia; please stop by there when you can) because the activity description said in part, “Come help us clean the garden and plant a fruit tree.”  The plant a tree part got to me. I get to plant a tree that a child could someday take shade under, play on, breathe easier, and eat fresh fruit because of it?  Sign me up!

When I was six or seven years old, there was a popular PSA depicting a Native American looking over a landfill as a single tear rolls down his cheek.  I remember thinking, “When I get older, there’s gonna be trash everywhere!”  POP’s mission is an extremely important one to me. Not only do the orchards transform neglected areas into those of beauty, the orchards create mini ecosystems that help to physically renew the areas that they’re in. Without the orchards, these areas would be that less livable.  POP’s orchards are truly a boon and a blessing.

I was quite happy when Phil asked me to be an orchard liaison to two schools, especially since one was on the same street where I lived; an urban area that is rife with trash and seemingly uncaring neighbors. That school had started to implement programs to improve student life; I think that their acquiring an orchard helped greatly with that process and Tilden Middle School is now a designated Community School with a direct connection the mayor’s office (in fact, Mayor Kinney planted a tree at the school during POP’s last work day there).  I don’t think that volunteering in a classroom would have nearly the impact that planting an orchard has. Watching students interact with the orchard and garden or teach other students garden facts is quite moving and profound.  That gives me hope that one day, “there won’t be trash everywhere” and Philadelphia will be a beautiful, bountiful city for all!

Golden Persimmon Volunteer Tony Dorman helping out at the Philadelphia Montessori Charter School in West Philadelphia.

 

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.

POP History 2014 & Volunteer Highlight: Ryan Kuck

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“This is the power of community orchards. They inspire, they lift spirits, they demonstrate resiliency, and they bring people together around that greatest of common denominators – food. ”
-Ryan Kuck, 2014 Golden Persimmon Volunteer

In honor of the Philadelphia Orchard Project’s 10th anniversary in 2017, we’re looking back at a different year in our history every month.  We’re also designating Golden Persimmon Awards for each year in recognition of the extraordinary efforts of our volunteers.

The POPHarvest gleaning program was piloted in 2014, educating city residents about abundant but neglected fruits like juneberries, crabapples, and ginkgo nuts.

Philadelphia Orchard Project History: 2014
POP again expanded our programming in 2014 by bringing on new staff in Robyn Mello as our Education & Outreach Director.  Among other things, Robyn started our POPHarvest gleaning program to pick and distribute fruit that would otherwise go to waste and to educate the public about abundant but neglected fruit in the city.  New planting sites in 2014 included assisting with design and planting of a multi-acre orchard with the Philadelphia Prison System and a demonstration orchard at Penn Park on UPenn’s campus.  Our 4th annual Orchard Day expanded to Philadelphia Orchard Weekend, involving over 1700 participants in harvest festivals and other events at orchards across the city.  POP’s Executive Director Phil Forsyth presented a TEDx talk on the value of urban community orchards.

POP ORCHARDS PLANTED in 2014:  St James United Methodist, Penn Park, Philadelphia Prison Systems, Gorgas Park, Tablespread Farm
NUMBER OF POP ORCHARD SITES SUPPORTED IN 2014: 47
2014 POP NEWSLETTERS: Summer, Winter
2014 POP ORCHARD SPOTLIGHTS: Tertulias @ Norris Square,  Earth’s Keepers Farm at Kingsessing Rec Center
2014 GOLDEN PERSIMMON VOLUNTEER:  Ryan Kuck
2014 POP BOARD PRESIDENT: Brian Olszak

New POP Education & Outreach Director Robyn Mello helping to plant fruit trees at the Philadelphia Prison Systems orchard in 2014.

POP VOLUNTEER HIGHLIGHT: Ryan Kuck

Ryan Kuck volunteered on POP’s Board and Orchard Committee from 2007 through 2011.  He continues to help maintain fruit trees and community orchards in the Belmont neighborhood and currently serves as Executive Director of Greensgrow Farms
I was just in NYC the other weekend visiting the first official permaculture project in a city park. “Really?” I said. “In Philly we’ve been doing this for over 10 years!” In New York there is an ordinance specifically prohibiting foraging from park land. But I’m watching a few dozen families come and go through this rather nondescript pilot project in the Bronx, excitedly finding edible herbs and flowers, showing their friends and children, and carrying their treasures back home. Given the enormous chip Philly has on its shoulder about being a forgotten sibling to New York, it’s nice to see this city so far ahead of the curve on the powers of community-based food forests. NYC’s got nothing on us!
I started volunteering with POP in 2007, having done a few guerilla plantings around the city that couldn’t quite attract enough attention to build a movement. It is remarkable what POP has accomplished over that time, and I brag to anyone that will listen that I have 30 fruit trees growing within 3 blocks of my house. We embarked on an ambitious project to build 10 permanent garden spaces in our neighborhood of Belmont with community partners. We knew we didn’t want to replicate the fragile system of growing on vacant land, but rather sought to build a resilient network that improved community-owned assets through agriculture. We started with annual vegetables but slowly the gardens sprouted fruit trees and perennials. It can be hard to maintain a raised bed, or to convince someone unfamiliar that rainbow chard is worth a try, but everyone knows what a cherry is. We had kids and got busy with life, and most of the gardens found other caretakers. And the fruit trees just keep growing. Even when a group of rowdy kids climb branches a bit too small to reach those highest fruits and snap a limb, those trees keep shooting for the sky and defiantly producing another bushel.
Yesterday a woman walked by our house and in her hand was a persimmon that a neighbor had helped her pick from the nearby Ogden Gardens orchard site. When she saw that our garden also had a tree full of ripening persimmons, she flagged us down and exclaimed: “My son just tasted one of these at a program in his school- I can’t believe they’re growing in our neighborhood!” 

This is the power of community orchards. They inspire, they lift spirits, they demonstrate resiliency, and they bring people together around that greatest of common denominators – food.

Golden Persimmon Volunteer Ryan Kuck with his very young apprentice at Ogden Gardens, one of several POP orchards he helped to plant in his neighborhood.

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.

POP History 2013 & Volunteer Highlight: Kevin Stutler

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“The Philadelphia Orchard Project offered me many opportunities to work with a wide range of people to share my passion for teaching and working with plants.  ”
-Kevin Stutler, 2013 Golden Persimmon Volunteer

In honor of the Philadelphia Orchard Project’s 10th anniversary in 2017, we’re looking back at a different year in our history every month.  We’re also designating Golden Persimmon Awards for each year in recognition of the extraordinary efforts of our volunteers.

POP’s demonstration food forest at Awbury Arboretum was planted in 2013 and has been host to many workshops, work days and events ever since.

Philadelphia Orchard Project History: 2013
POP had another very busy year of planting in 2013.  New orchards included a demonstration food forest at Awbury Arboretum, also home of POP’s edible plant nursery.  POP partnered with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to create a demonstration food forest orchard at the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center.   Inspired by the plantings and programs at neighboring Woodford, Historic Strawberry Mansion partnered with POP and the East Park Revitalization Alliance on a new orchard at their site.  In October, over 1200 participants celebrated at the 3rd annual Philadephia Orchard Day at POP partner sites across the city.  At the end of 2013, POP piloted its first annual orchard survey to collect data on harvest totals, community participation, and how to best support our community partners going forward.

POP ORCHARDS PLANTED in 2013:  Awbury Arboretum, Fairmount Park Horticulture Center, Historic Strawberry Mansion, FNC Lighthouse, Tulpehocken, Rivera Rec Center
NUMBER OF POP ORCHARD SITES SUPPORTED IN 2013: 43
2013 POP NEWSLETTERS: Summer, Winter
2013 POP ORCHARD SPOTLIGHTS:  Edible Belmont, FNC Teens 4 Good
2013 GOLDEN PERSIMMON VOLUNTEER:  Kevin Stutler
2013 POP BOARD PRESIDENT: Kim Jordan

One day’s berry harvest at the Ogden Orchard! POP conducted its first annual orchard partner survey in 2013 to begin tracking yields, community usage, and other data.

POP VOLUNTEER HIGHLIGHT: Kevin Stutler

In his years volunteering with POP, I often referred to Kevin Stutler as POP’s #1 Volunteer and threatened to make him special t-shirts with puns like ‘BORN TO pRUNe!’.  Kevin rates easily as one of POP’s all time most useful volunteers, despite being on permanent disability and suffering from a chronic disease of the nervous system. He came out to help in any and every way he could, whenever his body would allow for it, often fighting through pain to help pull weeds, prune trees, pot up plants, and much more.  A true hero.

Beyond his heroic physical efforts, Kevin happened to be one of few people on the planet with significant experience in maintaining a large scale temperate permaculture orchard.  Before moving to Philadelphia, he spent 7 years maintaining a diverse, mature food forest orchard planting on 7 acres just outside of Eugene, Oregon.  In addition to teaching me a lot of what I know about orchard care, Kevin led many POP workshops over the years on topics including pruning, vermicomposting, mushroom cultivation, and grape trellis construction. At one of his compost tea workshops, he famously unintentionally drank some of the brew- a good lesson on how not to use it in the garden!

Kevin is also a self-styled ‘Appalachian Engineer’, raised in Southeast Ohio and capable of fixing any mechanical issue with ingenuity and thrift.  He would routinely fix up POP’s tools, wheelbarrows, and other equipment, often coming up with novel improvements in the process.  Kevin’s obsession with the best tools (especially interesting ones of Japanese origin) helped influence POP’s supply over the years.  With the help from a small grant, he designed and built an automated micro-sprinkler irrigation system for POP’s edible plant nursery, simultaneously improving plant health and reducing water use.

Kevin Stutler served on POP’s Orchard Committee and as lead orchard liaison for Awbury Arboretum and the Carousel House from approximately 2013 to 2016.  He moved back to Ohio in 2016 to be closer to his family, but we were thrilled to have him back to celebrate POP’s 10th Anniversary in September 2017.

All star POP volunteer Kevin Stutler leads a workshop on grape trellis construction at Historic Strawberry Mansion.

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.