POP Learning Orchard

POP Learning Orchard

The POP Learning Orchard at The Woodlands is an education hub for sharing best practices in ecological orchard care.

The Philadelphia Orchard Project partnered with and The Woodlands to establish the POP Learning Orchard at The Woodlands, a space designed for education, inspiration, and interaction with the environment. Through the time and efforts of the POP team, weekly volunteers, and our supporters, the orchard has expanded with a variety of new annual crops, fruit and nut trees, perennial herbs and flowers as well as new infrastructure additions that will continue to support the mission of becoming an educational hub for best ecological orchard care practices. 

In spring 2020, POP planted a one-acre demonstration orchard in the northwest quadrant of The Woodlands along Woodland Ave, containing 60 fruit and nut trees, pollinator plants, and berry gardens. With the support from the Hardy Plant Society, a shade garden featuring diverse edible, medicinal, and pollinator-friendly perennials was planted in fall 2021. POP uses the alleyways between the young tree rows to grow prolific crops such as sweet peas, black-eyed peas, peppers, basil and ground cherries for donation to folks experiencing food insecurity in our community via Get Fresh Daily, Food Not Bombs West Philly, and directly into the hands of our neighbors through The Fridge on 52nd Street. POP also has an ongoing partnership with True Love Seeds and grows The Landreth Stringless Bush Bean and Clemson Spineless Okra for seed production.

A map of the layout of the POP Learning Orchard at The Woodlands, which includes over 90 fruit and nut trees.

The edible plant nursery at The Learning Orchard provides plant materials for POP community orchard partners. With the help of a small volunteer team in spring 2021, the dugout on the softball field next to the nursery was converted into a solar shed that now powers the irrigation system in the nursery as well as the compost tea brewer. In fall 2021, a shade structure was erected with the help of Powercorps PHL, to provide protection from the sun for volunteers and shade plants in the nursery. We look forward to expanded infrastructure of hoophouses and a battery powered greenhouse in 2023, which will increase nursery materials grown and demonstrate growing zone 8 perennial crops with funding from the State Department of Agriculture and The Junior League of Philadelphia.

The POP nursery is located on old tennis courts and the irrigation is powered by a solar shed installed in the old softball dugout.

Management of the POP Learning Orchard is led by POP Orchard Manager, Sharon Appiah who facilitates twice weekly workdays to help build up and maintain the space, and to grow and harvest annual crops. Sharon is passionate about 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 also manages the Lead Orchard Volunteer program and is the lead staff for many partner community orchards in West Philly.

Sharon Appaih, POP Orchard Manager and POP lead in managing the Learning Orchard.

Jamie Gauthier, Councilmember for Philadelphia’s Third Council District covering West and Southwest Philadelphia, says “POP and The Woodlands are each indispensable organizations that connect our communities to nature and horticulture. Their new partnership will provide Philadelphia residents with rich resources—educationally, aesthetically, and nutritionally. I look forward to seeing the POP Learning Orchard grow over the months and years to come.”

In addition to providing valuable food resources, the orchard plantings enliven the streetscape, and expanded joint programming uplift The Woodlands’ rich horticultural history. Leveraging the power of food-based programs enhances cultural and recreational opportunities for West Philadelphia residents, and attracts a wide cross-section of users to this extraordinary green space. Check out this just published virtual tour of the new and historic edible landscape of The Woodlands.

William Hamilton’s estate, now know as The Woodlands, was one of the most important horticultural sites in the country at the turn of the 19th century. In addition to a 90 acre English-style pleasure garden, the Hamilton greenhouse contained almost 10,000 plant specimens from across the world.  POP’s efforts will help to revive this history in a way that benefits today’s community.

ORGANIZATION BACKGROUNDS

The Woodlands’ 54-acre undulating landscape is at once a one-of-a-kind 18th-century English pleasure garden, 19th-century rural cemetery, and a modern green oasis for its neighbors in bustling University City and West Philadelphia. The Woodlands was designated a National Historic Landmark District in recognition of its unique history and rich resources. Today, the mission of The Woodlands is to enrich the lives of area residents and visitors by serving as a hub for activities and educational programs that interpret, celebrate and make available to the public The Woodlands’ historic buildings and rich and tranquil green space. More information about The Woodlands is available via the organization’s website: www.woodlandsphila.org or on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @woodlandsphila

The Philadelphia Orchard Project was founded in 2007 with a mission to plant and support community orchards in the city of Philadelphia, improving access to nutritious food and creating beautiful and bountiful green spaces. Orchards, primarily located in low-wealth neighborhoods, are owned, maintained, and harvested by the community. POP orchards contain a variety of fruit and nut trees, berry bushes and vines, herbs, pollinator gardens, and other useful and edible perennials. Follow POP on Facebook @PhiladelphiaOrchardProject, or on Instagram and Twitter @phillyorchards.

Founded in 1912, the Junior League of Philadelphia (JLP) is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable. The JLP is also a member of the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI), with 291 Leagues globally.

The Junior League of Philadelphia accept the Purple Fig award at the 2022 Orchard Celebration.