Who says you have to travel outside the city to enjoy the beauty (and deliciousness) of fresh fruit orchards? Cities all across America are transforming the urban landscape by harvesting trees in public spaces. Together with growing community gardens, planting urban orchards is bringing local groups and residents together to improve their neighborhoods. Planting fruit and nut-bearing trees in limited resource neighborhoods and in neglected areas in cities connects people with nature, provides volunteer opportunities, produces food in public areas, and teaches the public about the environment.
Thanks to the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act, USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program (UCF) is supporting urban tree planting, including urban orchard and urban agroforestry projects, and promoting the economic, environmental, social, and health benefits of tree cover. Urban orchards are one of the proven opportunities to expand tree cover in urban areas, which is one of the UCF program’s areas of focus.
UCF is supporting Secretary Vilsack’s vision for stewardship of America’s forests and support for local food systems through financial, technical and educational assistance. Support for the following projects has given communities the pleasure of growing home-grown fruit and helping establish agriculture as a permanent part of the city’s environment, economy and culture.
The Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP) mission is “to plant orchards in the city of Philadelphia that grow healthy food, green spaces and community food security.” Paul Glover founded the organization in 2007 as an economic development project to develop a sustainable food source for underdeveloped areas. POP, which now has dozens of orchards, works with community-based groups and volunteers to plan and plant orchards filled with useful and edible plants and trees.
The City of Moab, Utah, received a Community Forestry Partnership Grant from the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands to assist with a pocket park orchard. The Youth Garden Project (YGP) planted fruit trees that would be harvested and sold at the local farmers market. YGP has a wide variety of programs for the community, such as participating in sustainable agriculture and processing harvested food from the orchards in a certified community kitchen.