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

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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

POP Summer Newsletter 2017

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Partnering with POP gave my students more than just the chance to plant trees; it provided us with experiential learning opportunities fostering skills for changing our communities while understanding proper plant care. Our classroom became orchards and gardens amid a sea of concrete; our materials morphed into natural resources and tools to shape them. Our curriculum was no longer worksheets and textbooks–rather, a call to direct action, creating and learning how to design agricultural systems that can provide communities with food, medicine, and sustainable practices to help them become cleaner, healthier, independent, and more closely connected.”
– Cole Jadrosich, Tilden Middle School Literacy & Agricultural Educator

Please join POP in celebrating 10 years of planting community orchards in the city!  Thank you for your support of our vision of a more beautiful and bountiful Philadelphia. 

Here are some highlights from our 2017 spring season:  

  • Planted our 1,141th fruit tree and supported our 57th community orchard site!
  • Received the Great American Gardeners Award for Urban Beautification from the American Horticultural Society
  • Assisted with brand new orchard plantings at Pastorius Community Gardens, St Bernard Community Garden, Tilden Middle School, and Bartram High School
  • Involved over 600 volunteers and 1000 participants in 87 events including orchard plantings, work days, workshops, tours, harvests, and festivals
  • Organized our first POP CORE urban orchardist certification course

We hope you will take a few minutes to read below about some of the interesting people and stories we encountered along the way.  

POP’s programs run all year!  Join us for our Jam-making workshop at Greensgrow this Saturday, 8/12 or check out our website for a variety of upcoming orchard work days at sites across the city. 

POP is Celebrating its 10 Year Anniversary!

Can you believe it? These last 10 years have been filled with new orchard plantings, collaborations, community gatherings, harvest festivals, fruit picking, and so much more! We are so excited to celebrate these last 10 years with our POP community and hope you will join us on Sunday, September 10th for POP’s 10th Anniversary Celebration!

10 years, 57 community orchards, and still growing.


If you can’t make it, please consider supporting our next ten years with a donation

Spring 2017 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 57 different orchard sites in neighborhoods across the city!  209 volunteers joined with us and our partners at 10 orchard planting events this spring.  Brand new orchards were planted with Pastorius Community Gardens in Germantown; St Bernard Community Garden in West Philly; and Tilden Middle School and Bartram High School in Southwest Philly. We also expanded existing orchard sites at Kleinlife, Lea Elementary, Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, Overbrook School for the Blind, PhillyEarth @ the Village of Arts & Humanities, and Penn Park. To read more about all our orchard partners and view a map of POP sites: phillyorchards.org/orchards.


Expansion planting at KleinLife in spring 2017. 

Harvest, Gleaning & Preservation. In April, Robyn had the opportunity to present and participate in the first ever International Gleaners Symposium. The symposium was hosted in Salt Lake City by Green Urban Lunchbox, an urban agriculture and gleaning organization based there, and attended by gleaning nonprofits from all over the US and Canada. Back in Philadelphia, our POPHarvest program kicket off with our 2nd annual Juneberry Joy Campaign, where 122 pounds of juneberries were harvested by 45 volunteers for take home and partnerships with various local food businesses. We’ve also harvested strawberries, cherries, and mulberries with various POP Partner Orchards, and we continued our relationship with Linvilla Orchards by harvesting 1,000 pounds of excess peaches and distributing them to several emergency food centers in Philadelphia. POPHarvest additionally expanded its scope to include two herb harvests from the abundant food forest-style partner orchard in Penn Park. Participants harvested roman chamomile, elderberries, anise hyssop, thyme, and oregano for spices and medicine, and sampled some of the first ripe grapes in the orchard! Stay up to date for more upcoming POPHarvest events by joining the listserv here.

POPHarvest volunteers with gleaned Linvilla peaches
POPHarvest volunteers with gleaned Linvilla peaches

Orchard Education.  POP continues to educate our orchard partners through diverse offerings including workshops, consulting visits, POP TIPS shared through the Philadelphia Orchard Group (PHOG), and the Philadelphia Orchard Project Blog. In March, POP hosted its first ever Community Orchard Resilience Education course (POPCORE) to more comprehensively train orchardists throughout the city to care for their spaces long into the future. This 4-part course includes (1) “Pruning and Orchard Care Through The Seasons”, (2) “Eco-Orchard Pest and Disease Management”, (3) “Orchard Plants and Fungi”, and (4) “Introduction to Permaculture Design”. 33 students took at least one class and 8 complete the whole course! Moving forward, we plan to teach one class every 3 months and teach the whole course every March. Though educating our partners and volunteers is the main motivation for designing this course, all classes are open to the general public–and we never know when today’s first time student could become tomorrow’s new orchard steward! You can take one or all classes and complete the course within two years for certification. Sign up for our next POPCORE workshop to be held on September 28 and stay tuned to events listings on our website for ongoing POPCORE offerings.


Students in the first POPCORE Course participate in answering big questions for group discussion. Join our next workshop on Orchard Plants & Fungi on September 28th

School Orchards update.  In January 2017, POP hired two-time Education & Outreach intern Alyssa Schimmel to serve as POP’s new Education Director.  In collaboration with POP’s 10 school partner sites, POP is creating orchard-based lesson plans to implement into the classroom with elementary, middle, and high school students. Pilot sites for the new program including Lea Elementary, Tilden Middle School, and the Overbrook School for the Blind.  POP plans to build a network of educators throughout the city for educational resource sharing and curriculum development. Please email alyssa@phillyorchards.org if you would like to join a committee of dynamic and inspired agricultural educators.


Community Design Meetings with new POP Partner Applicant, Cramp Elementary School, have been very rewarding!

Juneberry Joy 2017

An annual tradition in its second year, Juneberry Joy is an exciting collaboration between the Philadelphia Orchard Project, volunteersand local food artisans.  This year, POP volunteers help us harvest 119 pounds of juneberries (also known as serviceberries or saskatoons) from 9 different locations across the city.  The berries were then bought by 9 different artisan partners and crafted into yummy food goods to introduce yet more folks to this abundant and delicious city fruit!  Participating partners this year included Weckerly’s, Schmear It, Magpie, Fikira Bakery, Crime & Punishment, Lil Pop Shop, Martha, The Monkey & The Elephant, and Funky Fresh.  A portion of the proceeds from berry and food sales is donated back to POP’s community orchard programming.


Read more about this year’s Juneberry Joy, including the delights made by our artisan partners and recipe ideas!

2017 Strawberry Festival

This year was our biggest Strawberry Festival ever, with over 200 participants picking fresh strawberries from the patch, getting their face painted, learning about bees, eating good food, taking a tour of the orchard and Historic Strawberry Mansion, and celebrating the successful spring planting season!

Everyone left with a belly full of strawberries and had the chance to enjoy a beautiful day in this neighborhood gem!


Fresh organic strawberries straight from the garden at this year’s 9th annual East Park Strawberry Fest! 

Philadelphia Orchard Project 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:

Read more about POP’s partnership at Tilden Middle School in our recent blog post by educator Cole Jadrosich.  

School Orchard Campaign Update

Thank you again to everyone who helped us during our School Orchard Program campaign this year! Together we were able to raise over $5,000, which supports our work in expanding opportunities for Philadelphia youth through outdoor orchard education. You can stlil contribute to this program by making a tax-deductible donation today!

Other 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 Robyn Mello (robyn@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).


Plant a fruit tree in celebration of a loved one for holidays, birthdays, and other occasions!

POP CORE Recap & Orchard Care Through the Seasons

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POP kicked off its newest training program last Wednesday, March 8th at Bartram’s Garden called POPCORE: Community Orchardist Resilience Education. An endeavor to realize the potential and beauty of fully productive, well cared-for eco-orchards in every neighborhood, POPCORE seeks to encourage the self-sufficiency of our partners and connections between partners in close geographical proximity through group trainings and face-to-face sharing between partners. With increased knowledge, attention, and combined resources, the average community orchard has the potential to produce hundreds of pounds of varied produce per season in addition to being a safe, beautiful outdoor space for gathering and education.

POPCORE combines many elements of orchard stewardship, ecosystem design, and food uses that POP has learned over the past ten years,  synthesized in a 4-part series that can be taken as one-off classes or in pre-season series. Hosted back-to-back over four Wednesdays in March at Bartram’s historic garden, the course covers Pruning and Eco-orchard Seasons (March 8), Pest and Disease Management (March 15); Plants, Fungi, and What To Do With Them (March 22); and Permaculture and The Future of Philadelphia’s Food System (March 29).  Registration info here

The first class taught by POP Executive Director Phil Forsyth and Orchard Director Robyn Mello drew 21 participants, who came from a span of neighborhoods throughout the city to learn about orchard care through the seasons and the specifics of pruning fruit trees, berries & brambles, and fruiting vines, with a pre-class hands-on pruning demo hosted in Bartram’s Community Orchard.

For the health of your orchard, seasonally-appropriate care is important and POP wants you to succeed! Check out POP’s Resource Guide for PDF-downloadable handouts on topics covered during POPCORE’s first session, including orchard care by season (summarized below) a guide to pruning, and relevant POP blog posts linked below. 

Students learn techniques for wintertime pruning of fruiting shrubs in Awbury Arboretum’s food forest.

WINTER ORCHARD TASKS

PRUNING. For best production and tree health, all common fruit trees regardless of age should be pruned during their dormant season every winter, ideally between late January and early March. The basic idea is to open the tree to more air and light.

Check out POP’s guide to Pruning Fruit Trees and  Pruning Bushes, Brambles, and Vines.  

REMOVE MUMMIFIED FRUIT. Any fruit left hanging on the tree is a potential source for disease spores. Pluck and remove any mummified fruit from the orchard during pruning.

SPRAY DORMANT OIL. Apply horticultural oil, neem oil, or vegetable oil at 4% dilution to smother overwintering eggs of insects including aphids and scales.

Check out POP’s guide to Dormant/Horticultural Oil Sprays. 

MAINTAIN ORCHARD EQUIPMENT. Clean and sharpen all orchard tools. Order orchard care supplies. For PHS City Harvest participants, check out a related training on Tool Care on Saturday March 25th from 10am-noon or visit POP Partner The West Philly Tool Library for information on tool rental and care. 

Orchard liaison Tony Dorman spreads compost during a spring workday at Philadelphia Montessori Charter School

SPRING  ORCHARD TASKS

APPLY MULCH/COMPOST. Spread chipped winter prunings, shredded leaves and/or compost.

Check out POP’s guide to Ramial Wood Chips and Weeding in Place.  

HOLISTIC ORCHARD SPRAYS. Holistic sprays are composed of compost tea, liquid fish/seaweed, neem oil, and/or effective microbes. For best tree health and resistant to disease, apply up to 4 times in the spring (after bud break, at first pink of flowers, after petal fall, and two weeks after petal fall). Depending on specific pest or disease problems, some orchardists might also consider other organic sprays including the ones listed below. 

Check out POP’s guides to orchard applications of:

TRAINING. New growth can be trained to better angles using clothespins, branch spreaders, or tying to weights.

THINNING. In late May or early June, young fruitlets on peaches, apples, pears and Asian pears, and some plums should be thinned by pinching off with fingers or pruner. Peaches should be thinned to 8” apart, apples and pears to 5”, and heavy-bearing plums to 5” on the tree. Also at this time, all fruit should be removed from any newly planted trees.

Check out POP’s guide on Thinning Fruit Trees. 

BAGGING FRUIT. Place ziplock, paper, or nylon bags around young fruit (especially apples) to protect them from some insect and disease challenges.  

Check out POP’s guide to Bagging Fruit.

Community members pick berries during Strawberry Mansion’s Strawberry Festival

SUMMER ORCHARD TASKS

HARVEST. Pick fruit as they ripen, spring through fall according to fruit type. Remove or compost any fallen fruit to reduce potential pests and disease. 

Check out POP’s guide to Summer Harvest Timing and Equipment and Late-Season Fruit Ripeners.

MONITOR. Observe orchard regularly throughout the year for pest and disease problems, identify and respond appropriately with trapping, removal, or possible applications of kaolin clay, neem oil, Bt, pyrethrin, etc.

EMERGENCY PRUNING. Remove diseased or damaged wood, root suckers, and watersprouts any time of year. Be sure to sterilize tools with alcohol or bleach solution between each cut. In some cases, additional structural pruning may be done in early summer to minimize regrowth, but avoid anything but emergency pruning after July.

For more information, check out this POP guide to emergency pruning. 

Executive Director Phil Forsyth brews a batch of compost tea to apply to orchard plantings

FALL ORCHARD TASKS

APPLY COMPOST. After most leaves have fallen, spread a layer of compost or spray compost tea. An annual soil test can reveal any other specific nutrients or amendments that should be added.

Check out POP’s guide to Autumn Composting. 

We hope this seasonal breakdown provides you with a solid overview to ready yourself for maintaining the health and productivity of your orchard. Hope to see you in a POP CORE class soon!
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 2017 Winter Newsletter

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“At first my volunteer group was hesitant, saying they had never heard of the fruit, but I think everyone there eventually tried the goumi berries, and this had an interesting effect. We began to talk about fruits we liked growing up, remembering what plants our families grew in their gardens, and sharing almost forgotten herbal home remedies for illnesses our parents gave to us. The time we spent in the orchard that day helped us get to know each other more and brought us closer together.”                                   — Leslie Cerf, Awbury Arboretum

We thank you for supporting our vision of a more beautiful, bountiful Philadelphia!

Here are some highlights from our fall 2017 season:

  • Planted our 1099th fruit tree and supported our 56th community orchard site!
  • Assisted with brand new orchard plantings at KleinLife community center, Jewish Farm School, and Monumental Baptist Church
  • Partnered with the West Philly Tool Library to make orchard tools & equipment more accessible
  • Involved over 2000 volunteers and participants in 59 events including orchard plantings, work days, workshops, tours, harvests, and festivals
  • Celebrated our 6th annual Philadelphia Orchard Week with harvest festivals and other events at orchard sites across the city!

We hope you will take a few minutes to read below about some of the interesting people and stories we encountered along the way.  

Young volunteers help with food forest plantings at Penn Park in fall 2016!


POP is 10 Years Old!

All this year we will be celebrating the Philadelphia Orchard Project’s 10th anniversary!  Each month we’ll look back at a different year in our history and recognize the efforts of some of our extraordinary volunteers.  Stay tuned for announcements about a series of events to celebrate our big milestone.

Ten years ago, POP Executive Director Phil Forsyth and others were inspired by Paul Glover’s original vision of a Philadelphia Orchard Project that would plant vacant lots and other city spaces with fruit trees to feed hungry Philadelphians.  In looking back on this important anniversary, we take pride on the progress we’ve made towards this original vision and transitioning it to a fully realized organization.  In our first ten years, POP has planted almost 1,100 fruit trees and currently supports a total of 56 community orchards in the city, primarily in neighborhoods lacking access to fresh fruit.  We are proud of the impact of our community orchards in bringing beauty and bounty to neighborhoods and helping to build a new culture of fresh food in the city.


POP’s very first planting way back in 2007!

2017 is going to be another pivotal year for POP’s growth!  We just hired a new part-time Education Director, Alyssa Schimmel, who among other things will be working directly with our 10 school orchard partners and developing a series of orchard-based lesson plans.  We are also rolling out our new POP CORE urban orchardist certification course in March to help train our orchard partners and volunteers.  What’s more, in February 2017, we moved into POP’s first ever office space at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia!


Fall 2016 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 56 different orchard sites in neighborhoods across the city!  230 volunteers joined with us and our partners at 16 orchard planting events this fall.  Brand new orchards were planted with the KleinLife community center, Jewish Farm School, and Monumental Baptist Church. We also expanded existing orchard sites at Lea Elementary, Penn Alexander School, Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, Overbrook School for the Blind, Overbrook Environmental Education Center, PhillyEarth @ the Village of Arts & Humanities, Awbury Arboretum, Historic Fair Hill, Woodford Mansion, Penn Park, Francisville, and Bartram’s Garden. To read more about all our orchard partners and view a map of POP sites: phillyorchards.org/orchards.

Harvest, Gleaning & Preservation. Eight POPHarvest gleaning events were held during our summer and fall 2016 season, where an estimated 5,000 pounds of fruit were picked by volunteers for take home and for donation to emergency food pantries, transition houses, churches, and partner organizations throughout the city. Many additional pounds of apples went into fresh cider pressed at various harvest festivals and Orchard Week events! POP staff, interns, and volunteers gleaned apples, peaches, and pears from a local commercial you-pick orchard; Asian pears from streets and backyards; mulberries, plums, and apricots from one of our partner orchards; and trifoliate oranges from historic sites. Stay up to date with 2017 harvesting events and become part of growing this program to make use of underutilized fruits by becoming a member of the POPHarvest listserv.

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. In January 2017, POP hired two-time Education & Outreach intern Alyssa Schimmel to serve part-time as POP’s Education Director.  In collaboration with POP’s 10 school partner sites, POP will create orchard-based lessons to implement into the classroom with elementary, middle, and high school students. Henry C. Lea Elementary School in West Philadelphia will be the first committed pilot site. POP plans to build a network of educators throughout the city for educational resource sharing and curriculum development. Please email alyssa@phillyorchards.org if you would like to join a committee of dynamic and inspired agricultural educators.

Please join us for our upcoming Fruit Tree Grafting Workshop on March 11 and learn more about the launch of POP’s 4-part Community Orchard Resilience Education (POPCORE) course Wednesdays in March at Bartram’s Garden beginning March 8th.


POP workshops this fall included biochar, compost tea, and ecosystem design!

6th Annual Philadelphia Orchard Week.  This year we celebrated Philadelphia Orchard Week with over 1600 participants at orchard sites across the city. Events included orchard plantings, harvest festivals, apple picking, cider pressing, a plant sale, crafts and games, volunteer opportunities, and more!  POP also loaned out our new cider press for fall harvest festivals at the Norris Square Neighborhood Project, Heritage Farm, Walnut Hill Farm, CHOP Karabots, Francisville, Overbrook Environmental Education Center, and the Pour the Core Cider Fest.


2016 POP Orchard Survey Results

Results of our 4th annual partner survey provide valuable feedback showing the impact of POP’s programs and guiding our future efforts towards continued improvement. Orchards were again valued most highly as educational spaces and over 4800 people participated in educational programs at POP orchards, up 38% from the previous year! Another 4600 tasted something grown in a POP orchard and 4300 used them as a gathering space in 2016. The survey again showed that almost all orchard produce is distributed within the neighborhood where it’s grown, including 44% harvested directly by community members. POP partners reported orchard yield totals for the year 38% higher than in 2015—over 5,000 pounds. Combined with another 5,000 pounds volunteers picked in our POPHarvest program, that makes for a lot of fruit!  82% 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!

Together, POP’s community orchards and POPharvest program yielded over 10,000 pounds of fresh fruit this year!

2016 Orchard Partner Stories

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

Overbrook School for The Blind

“Our students were able to taste figs for the first time from our fig tree. They would check the tree almost daily to get the figs before the squirrels! In late November, we made fig jam with the students. To quote our student, Elijah, when he tasted the jam: ‘It’s the bomb dot com!’”

— Roseann McLaughlin

Read more partner stories here!


Orchard Update: PhillyEarth @ the Village of Arts

Tucked away on an unassuming side street in North Philly, a large portion of the vacant lots on the west side of the 2500 block of North Warnock Street are buzzing with life and innovation. What once was a series of crumbling rowhomes is now a hub of outdoor learning for young people interested in self-sufficiency, regenerative systems, and improving their connection to the earth through PhillyEarth, a program of the Village of Arts & Humanities.

Read more about the PhillyEarth Orchard here!


POP and Phillyearth transformed vacant lots into a food forest this year!


POP Has a New Home

POP is excited to announce our move into our very first office at The Woodlands, a 54-acre historic landscape that was 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. We are still working on furnishing our office; please email phil@phillyorchards.org if you’re able to donate any of the following items in good working order:

  • printer/copier/scanner
  • computers (desktop or laptop)
  • space heater


Our new office space at Hamilton Mansion at The Woodlands! The ceiling may be low, but that won’t stop us from growing!

Annual Appeal Update

Thank you again to everyone who helped us during our annual appeal campaign this year! Together we were able to raise $18,552, which supports our work maintaining these community spaces of beauty and bounty, educating volunteers and orchard enthusiasts, and installing new orchards in the city of Philadelphia. We are still just shy of our $20,000 goal, and you can help us get there by making a tax-deductible donation today!

Other 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 (email phil@phillyorchards.org), 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 Robyn Mello (robyn@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).



Plant a fruit tree in celebration of a loved one for holidays, birthdays, and other occasions!