10th Annual East Park Apple Festival

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This year’s 10th annual East Park Apple Festival included a beautiful clear sky, perfect Fall weather, plenty of community involvement, and LOTS of apples.  The festival, which has been held at historic Woodford Mansion every October since 2009, is a collaboration between Woodford, the East Park Revitalization Alliance (EPRA), and the Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP). These partners first began to work together in 2008, when the Fairmount Park Commission (now Philadelphia Parks & Recreation) approved planting of the first fruit trees at Woodford.  Plantings now include dozens of fruit and nut trees, a berry garden, pollinator garden, and herb garden that help bring to life the history of the landscape while serving residents of today’s Strawberry Mansion neighborhood by providing fresh fruit and educational programming.

Pressing fresh apple cider has been a big hit at the East Park Apple Festival every year since 2009!

On October 20th, 2018, community members attending the Apple Festival enjoyed free food prepared by various volunteers, tours of the mansion and orchard, freshly pressed apple cider, a tasting of apple varieties, and various activities led by the partner organizations.

As guests arrived around noon, activities began.  POP set up its information table by the orchard, accompanied by volunteers and dozens of potted trees.  At this event, along with a several others during Philadelphia Orchard Week, POP provided those interested with a free fruit tree to take and plant at home through a grant from UPS and Keep America Beautiful.  Many fruit tree types were available, including Asian Pear, Peach, and Pawpaw! POP Executive Director Phil Forsyth later led a tour of the Woodford Orchard and neighborhood kids got to pick and eat some early ripening American Persimmons.

One of several Apple Fest attendees that went home with a free fruit tree to plant in their yard courtesy of POP and a grant from Keep America Beautiful and UPS.

Martha Moffat, who you could find helping out in every corner of the festival, is Site Manager of Woodford Mansion.  Ten years ago, Ms. Moffat recalls, when the first festival commenced, “it was cold and pouring rain. It wasn’t much fun, but we pushed forward and look, here we are ten years after, lots of big trees, people, the sun is shining.”  She could not be more proud and is thrilled to be a larger part of the community through their partnerships with EPRA and POP.

Near the entrance of the festival, you could find a beautiful red apple cider press, piles of apples, and EPRA staff and volunteers cranking away to make those apples into sweet, fresh cider.  Suku John, who is EPRA’s Executive Director and a master of the cider press, was happy to see such a great turnout this year. EPRA has been working as the primary stewards of the Woodford Orchard since its planting, with ongoing training and support from POP.  Dr. John reports that plans of further orchard expansion are to come with the help of a group called the Fair Amount Food Forest.

On this year’s tour of the Woodford community orchard, Apple Fest participants picked and tasted American persimmons right from the tree!  

Michael Muehlbauer and other volunteer members of the Fair Amount Food Forest collective also had a table set up at the festival and spent the day handing out information and receiving feedback from the community on possibilities to add new plantings and programs to the existing orchard space. They also provided activities for the kids and fresh herbal tea.  On top of providing information, activities, and tea, Mr. Muehlbauer was happy to be there, saying “the festival is a relaxed event with a wonderful vibe and great people.”

This years event came to a close just about when the apples did.  Honeycrisp was the decidedly “most popular” apple in the taste test, guests left with faces painted and stomachs full of all things apple, and the mansion and orchard received lots of welcome foot traffic.  Event partners Woodford Mansion, EPRA, POP, Fair Amount Food Forest, and community members all look forward to another 10 years of East Park Apple Festivals!

The apple variety taste test is always a popular part of the East Park Apple Festival!

This POP Blog post was written by 2018 POP Administrative Assistant Natalie Agoos with assistance from 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.

Check out more photos of this year’s East Park Apple Festival courtesy of WHYY: 

A rainy 2018 yielded soggy fall harvest, Philly growers say

POP History 2012 & Volunteer Highlight: Danie Greenwell

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“Dollar for dollar, a donation to POP will do a lot. It will most likely be used to plant a fruit tree or bush that will continue to produce high quality food for years to come. ”
-Danie Greenwell, 2012 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.

Cider pressing at the 2nd annual Philadelphia Orchard Day at Woodford.
Philadelphia Orchard Project History: 2012
In 2012, POP planted our 500th fruit tree and our 1000th berry bush in Philadelphia and involved over five hundred volunteers from across the city in planting and caring for community orchards.  We celebrated our second annual Philadelphia Orchard Day with harvest festivals, cider-pressing, pumpkin-painting, and lots of fresh fruit at POP partner sites in neighborhoods across the city. POP also hosted author and orchard all-star Michael Phillips for an intensive Holistic Orchard Training.  Orchard Director Phil Forsyth was promoted to Executive Director.

POP ORCHARDS PLANTED in 2012:  Overbrook Environmental Education Center, Carousel House Farm, Hunting Park Community Garden, Urban Sustainability Leadership Academy
NUMBER OF POP ORCHARD SITES SUPPORTED IN 2012: 39
POP NEWSLETTERS: Summer 2012Winter 2012
2012 GOLDEN PERSIMMON VOLUNTEER:  Danie Greenwell
2012 POP BOARD PRESIDENT: Kim Jordan
POP helped plant a community orchard in North Philly’s Hunting Park in 2012 in a partnership with Hunting Park United, the Fairmount Conservancy, and Philadelphia Parks & Rec with additional support from the Junior League of Philadelphia.

POP VOLUNTEER HIGHLIGHT: Danie Greenwell

Danie Greenwell was one of POP’s founding board members and has continued to serve as the organization’s volunteer bookkeeper and an invaluable adviser since leaving the board in 2011.

Like many good things, POP was formed around a dining room table – specifically Liz Mednick’s. Over weeks and months in 2007 and 2008, a few of us sat around that table and tried to figure out what it was we wanted, how we would set ourselves apart from other greening organizations, and how we would get funding.

While I come from a family of farmers and ag experts, planting is not my strength. Instead, I prefer the behind-the-scenes organizing that it takes to put an organization together. While ideas are great, it’s the follow-through that translates an idea into action. At the time POP was forming, I was heavily involved in an organization that trained young people to be nonprofit board members. Area experts came into talk about budgets, fundraising, volunteer coordination, legal responsibility, and strategic planning. I did my best to train other board members on these areas and then set up the accounting policies and created a budget. We recruited experts like Domenic Vitiello, Michael Nairn, and Anne Taylor to sit on the board of directors. We called the IRS dozens of time to try to move our 501c3 application along. We created electronic organization for financial records, marketing materials, and contact lists.

As anyone who has started a nonprofit knows, there is a steep learning curve at times. Board members over-commit and then cannot deliver; donor letters get forgotten; insurance gets dropped because the post office box was not working properly. But we had patient supporters who would spend their time fixing the problems and creating better systems. Generous donors would remind us to send them a letter for tax purposes and then send in another donation, just because.

I hosted a house party for POP because to this day, I still think it is the best way to get people invested in the organization. I invited a LOT of people to my very small apartment and served them as many foods with locally-grown ingredients as I could. Board members lugged in cases of beer. Phil spoke about POP’s work. I was blown away by the generosity of friends. Most were grad students and nonprofit workers and yet we raised $1700 in one evening.

Currently, I serve as the volunteer controller for the organization. I make sure that donations get into the bank and then are used to plant orchards. As a person who spends hours poring over nonprofit financial statements and 990s, I can assure that POP is in a good place. Our spending is “lean” and we have very little overhead. Dollar for dollar, a donation to POP will do a lot. It will most likely be used to plant a fruit tree or bush that will continue to produce high quality food for years to come. I am very happy to still be part of this wonderful organization a decade later!

Proof is in the planting! Golden Persimmon volunteer Danie Greenwell helps in the dirt as well as watching POP’s books.

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 2010 & Volunteer Spotlight: Brian Olszak

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“One of the great things about POP is that everyone is welcomed and accepted, at all skill levels and abilities.”
-Brian Olszak, 2010 POP 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 planted 5 new community orchards in 2010, including one at Pepper Middle School in partnership with the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative.
Philadelphia Orchard Project History: 2010
At long last, POP received its official 501c3 status in 2010, making us an independent non-profit able to receive grants and funds on our own.  We continued our core work of planting new community orchards, adding 5 new sites across the city as well as significant expansions at Woodford and SHARE.  In 2010, POP also widened our program to support additional city orchards sites not originally planted by us, including Mill Creek Farm, Grumblethorpe, and University City High School.

POP ORCHARDS PLANTED in 2010:  Village of Arts & Humanities, Walnut Hill Farm, Preston’s Paradise, Pentridge Children’s Garden, Pepper Middle School
NUMBER OF POP ORCHARDS SUPPORTED IN 2010: 23
2010 MEDIA COVERAGE: ‘Deliciously Fresh Produce in Philadelphia’, NBC News
2010 GOLDEN PERSIMMON VOLUNTEER:  Brian Olszak
2010 POP BOARD PRESIDENT: Michael Nairn
POP received our 501c3 non-profit status in 2010 and promptly garnered $15,000 in support from a national competition sponsored by Greenworks.

POP VOLUNTEER HIGHLIGHT: Brian Olszak

In March of 2010 I was working in a private school library, looking forward to any students who might swing by and need assistance—unfortunately they were few and far between. I soon realized that having the four walls of a library be your entire world may not have been the right path for me. In my desire to find and try out some new and interesting things, I stumbled across POP’s website and fell in love with their mission of planting community orchards in the city.

One of the great things about POP is that everyone is welcomed and accepted, at all skill levels and abilities. To volunteer with POP there are no tests, no applications to fill out—just show up at a planting, pick up a shovel (or bring your own), and literally just dig in! Of course, you may need to find out where to dig in, what you’re planting and why, as I certainly did, but Orchard Director Phil Forsyth and the more-experienced volunteers were more than willing to show the ropes. If you kept showing up at more and more plantings like I did, you learned quickly. After volunteering at multiple orchard plantings in 2010 including the Village of Arts, SHARE Food Program, and Woodford, Phil asked me to be on the Orchard Committee and I jumped at the chance to do more. I then joined POP’s Board of Directors in 2011, later serving as Secretary, President, and lastly Treasurer before I “retired” from the Board at the end of 2016.

POP was the first nonprofit that I’d ever become involved with outside my day job. Personally, I didn’t think I had an obvious role to fill with POP: I was no horticulturalist or orchardist by any means, and I’d had no experience with fundraising, event planning, or nonprofit management. I just loved the work, and I’d try anything once (including leading the writing of POP’s first Strategic Plan—but not without a how-to manual to help!). What I may have lacked in initial knowledge or skill-set I learned through doing, but I’ve gained so much more through my experiences with POP. There are many partners and individuals throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods who make POP’s work a success, and knowing many of them continues to inspire me. It’s a humbling experience to see how community organizations and neighborhoods value and rally around an orchard that they own outright, a permanent fixture which bears many benefits beyond the fruit.

Even today I still can’t believe how far POP has come—and in so little time! When I first started volunteering, we only had a part-time Orchard Director (Phil), and now there’s a full-time Executive Director in Phil and three part-time employees. I’m so honored that I could be a small part of the great work POP has done over the last 10 years. Hope to see you at one of those orchards soon!

POP’s flagship orchard at Woodford Mansion in East Fairmount Park expanded outside the fence in 2010, with new plantings of nut trees and native fruit trees.

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 2009 & Volunteer Highlight: Jerry Silberman

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“Community orchards resonated with me because of all the things that trees can provide that vegetables gardens alone can’t – shade for one, but more importantly, a visible symbol of permanence and continuity.”  -Jerry Silberman, 2009 POP 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.

We will be celebrating our 9th annual East Park Strawberry Harvest Festival on June 10th, 2017, a treasured community event first held in 2009!
Philadelphia Orchard Project History: 2009
POP organized our first ever Strawberry Festival in spring and Apple Festival in fall 2009 in collaboration with our community partners the East Park Revitalization Alliance and Woodford Mansion; these engaging community events have continued ever since!  POP’s core work also continued with 5 new community orchards planted in 2009 and the development of a more formal application procedure to vet new community orchard partners.  One of the more exciting projects was partnering with the SHARE Food Program in planting an orchard at their headquarters, now part of a multi-faceted urban farm program educating emergency food recipients about growing and eating a wide variety of fresh produce.  We also planted fruit trees at Greenfield Elementary as part of an innovative, collaborative project in which Philadelphia Water depaved large sections of the schoolyard to create a series of garden spaces.

POP ORCHARDS PLANTED in 2009: SHARE Food Program, Greenfield Elementary, Evelyn Sanders, Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School, Roxborough Presbyterian Church
2009 MEDIA COVERAGE: ‘Power Plants‘, GRID magazine.
2009 GOLDEN PERSIMMON VOLUNTEER:  Jerry Silberman
2009 POP BOARD PRESIDENT: Domenic Vitiello
POP is proud to have planted fruit trees as part of the schoolyard transformation project known as Greening Greenfield, completed in 2009.

POP VOLUNTEER HIGHLIGHT: JERRY SILBERMAN

I don’t remember how I heard about POP, but I was there for the very first planting at the South Philly Teen Orchard and I was hooked. Community orchards resonated with me because of all the things that trees can provide that vegetables gardens alone can’t – shade for one, but more importantly, a visible symbol of permanence and continuity. The vision of POP that the orchards would be community property also speaks to permanence and continuity.  What’s more, I have to confess, most of my favorite foods grow on trees.

After its planting, I served as POP’s Orchard Liaison, or lead volunteer, for the South Philly Teen Orchard for more than five years.  The growth of the Teen Orchard was not a linear, unbroken success. The neighborhood had its share of problems, a polyglot community with new immigrants from many countries, much poverty and the stress that go with it. For a while, a drug house across the street regularly vandalized the orchard.

But for many neighborhood children and teens over the years, it was an exciting project, and a way to share different cultures. Some youth connected some of the plantings with  foods and products in their mother’s kitchens, and many, city born and bred, had their first close up appreciation of plants, bugs, and soil – and the amazement of eating something straight off the bush. In volunteering with POP at the Teen Orchard for many years I enjoyed, and learned from, the company of the young people.  And of course I learned how to care for our plants, and how to pass that learning along.

The growth and development of this orchard helped POP learn and evolve a model of community partnership now applied in neighborhoods across the city. POP’s Orchard Committee meetings spent a lot of time working through how to lead new partner groups through a process that would result long-term success in creating and caring for their community orchard spaces.

A few years ago I organized a bicycle tour as part of Philadelphia Orchard Day, something I hope can happen again. But it would now take several days to see all the sites/sights POP has to offer.

Planted in 2009, the orchard at the SHARE Food Program has since outlasted the neighboring Tastycake factory!

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 2008 & Volunteer Highlight: Kim Jordan

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“One of the most fun and fulfilling experiences as a POP volunteer has been to interact with kids who are there to help, learn, and explore.” -Kim Jordan, 2008 POP Golden Persimmon volunteer

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

Volunteers at POP’s first school orchard planting at Hartranft Elementary at North Philly in 2008.
Philadelphia Orchard Project History: 2008
The work of the Philadelphia Orchard Project really took off in our second year.  POP hired its first staff member, Orchard Director Phil Forsyth in spring 2008.  Phil and POP’s Orchard Committee planted 7 new community orchards that year, including several that remain flagship sites today.  Working with community partners the East Park Revitalization Alliance and the Naomi Wood Trust, POP planted the Woodford Orchard, our first site on Philadelphia Parks & Recreation property and home to many future harvest festivals and events.  We also planted our first school orchard at Hartranft Elementary in North Philly in partnership with the Mural Arts Program; orchards with Historic Fair Hill and Francisville NDC; and the first of several orchards in partnership with the Teens 4 Good program of the Federation of Neighborhood Centers.  POP also installed a food forest demonstration at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington DC, with all the plant material moved to orchards sites in Philadelphia at the end of the year.

POP ORCHARDS PLANTED in 2008:  Woodford, FNC Teens 4 Good Farm @ Poplar, Historic Fair Hill, Francisville, Hartranft Elementary, Chester Ave Community Garden, Nicetown
2008 MEDIA COVERAGE: An Elf in an Orchard, Philadelphia Inquirer
2008 GOLDEN PERSIMMON VOLUNTEERS:  Kim Jordan & Bruce Schimmel
2008 POP BOARD PRESIDENT: Domenic Vitiello

POP’s food forest installation at the US Botanic Garden in Washington DC, in site of the Capitol!
POP VOLUNTEER HIGHLIGHT: KIM JORDAN

 One of the most fun and fulfilling experiences as a POP volunteer has been to interact with kids who are there to help, learn, and explore. Besides the joy of being outside and digging around in the dirt, which may be an uncommon experience for city dwellers with concrete backyards or no outdoor space to speak of, each volunteer experience at a community orchard provides unexpected opportunities for informal learning for people from all over the city. My favorite memories are from the many potlucks and harvest festivals that have occurred over the years: even if you don’t know the person next to you, you can connect over sharing a handful of raspberries or a freshly picked fig.

I moved to Philadelphia in 2004, and first met some of POP’s founding members due to my involvement in local politics. Having grown up in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, I thought it was a novelty to live in a swing state. After volunteering on some unsuccessful campaigns for progressive candidates and after learning about the Philadelphia political scene— I decided to join friends in trying to promote the idea of planting community orchards in some of Philly’s 40,000 vacant lots and began volunteering with POP in 2007.

I grew up with apricot, apple, orange and almond trees in my backyard, but with minimal horticultural experience: I was glad others brought that expertise, namely POP’s founding Executive Director, Phil Forsyth. What attracted me to POP was the opportunity to do something positive: bringing beauty along with the added benefit of fresh fruit to neighborhoods lacking access to produce. Even knowing that fruit trees can take years to mature, we thought these community orchards, planted in large numbers across the city, would contribute to lowering food insecurity. We’ve since learned that although established orchards produce hundreds of pounds of fruit distributed within the surrounding community, POP orchards are most admired for their educational opportunities and for creating beautiful and welcoming green spaces.

Getting to know some of Philly’s less-visited neighborhoods and working alongside people who cared deeply about improving their community spaces, affected me deeply as I continued to visit the same orchards and see them develop from year to year. Personally, my experiences with POP starting as a volunteer, then later as a Board member serving as President, Vice President, and Treasurer, caused me to change my career path and to remain in Philadelphia rather than moving back to the West Coast. Instead of becoming an academic research scientist as I intended to do when initially moving here, I now work at a nonprofit that supports the city’s parks and I continue to volunteer with POP to help plant and support orchards, and strengthen communities.

I look forward to many more years of plantings, harvest festivals, fresh-pressed apple cider, and creating strong connections and new friendships in POP’s community orchards.

Tending the Woodford Orchard, planted in 2008 in partnership with the East Park Revitalization Alliance, Naomi Wood Trust, with support from Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.

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.