Philadelphia Orchard Project Checks In
We were happy to receive this detailed update from Phil Forsyth, Executive Director of Rex grantee Philadelphia Orchard Project, filling us in on their work over the past year, supported in part by our grant. Thanks to POP for the great work in your community!
We are pleased to submit this report on the programs and activities carried out by Philadelphia Orchard Project over the past year, which were supported in part by a $5,000 grant from the Rex Foundation.
In the past year, POP continued our core work of planting, expanding, and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia, holding plantings at twenty-three community orchards in collaboration with partners across the city, including new orchards at Norris Square Neighborhood Project, Pastorius Community Gardens, Bartram High School, South Philadelphia High School, and the St. Bernard Community Garden. Including additional expansion plantings at existing orchard partner sites, a total of 106 new fruit and nut trees, 316 berry bushes and vines, and 2,602 perennials and ground covers were planted in the city in the past year. Following the Fall 2017 plantings, POP is now providing support to 59 orchard sites in Philadelphia, and planted its 1,206th tree!
We are proud to have involved over 1,207 volunteers and 3,643 total participants in planting, caring for, and celebrating these community orchards at POP events this year. In addition to plantings, volunteers assisted with orchard care days, harvesting events, and nursery work days with a total of 97 POP events held in all in 2017.
POP also works with its partners to engage the community via seasonal harvest festivals. In Spring 2017, over 200 participants celebrated the spring harvest at our 9th annual East Park Strawberry Festival. POP‘s 7th annual Philadelphia Orchard Week in October 2017 involved over 1,900 participants in harvest festivals, orchard work days, and educational activities at POP orchard sites across the city.
Additionally, our POPHarvest program expanded access to fresh fruit by educating the public and harvesting and distributing fruit that would have otherwise gone to waste. In 2017, 12 POP Harvest events were held across the city, educating volunteers about harvest and use of abundant but overlooked city fruits including juneberries, mulberries, and crabapples. At an event in partnership with Linvilla Orchards in July 2017, POP volunteers also picked 1,100 pounds of excess peaches, half of which was distributed directly to emergency food services.
POP led 32 educational events including workshops, school lesson plans, and orchard tours this year. POP also maintains an active orchard care listserv and blog to educate partners and the general public on best practices, with weekly POP Tips on ecological orchard care and related topics. In spring 2017, POP organized a new 4-part ecological orchardist certification course for our partners, volunteers, and the general public and issued our first POP CORE certificates to those who completed all sessions.
POP was able to begin expanding and formalizing its School Orchard Program in 2017. Our school partners have demonstrated a greater need for ongoing support than our other partners. To address this need, we hired a new part-time staff member, Education Director Alyssa Schimmel, who has been formalizing our current program of quarterly staff visits to all our school partners and implementing a pilot program of more intensive support at several of our school sites. The pilot program involves monthly staff visits specifically targeted at creating lesson plans for our orchard–based school curriculum, which in subsequent years can be utilized at all our school sites and many other POP partners that provide youth programming.
We are pleased with the last year of POP’s programs and the benefits that these provide to Philadelphia residents, and encourage you to visit our blog for stories from POP volunteers, orchard partners, and staff. We greatly appreciate the support of the Rex Foundation in helping us achieve our goals!