Philadelphia is in the midst of a green revolution, and it’s happening overhead. The urban canopy — the population of street trees — is growing rapidly, thanks to several efforts, including the city Parks and Recreation department’s Tree Philly program, the water department’s Green City, Clean Waters plan, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Plant One Million project.
And there’s an organization that’s taking it one step further and planting fruit trees. “A lot of people are fascinated by the idea,” said Phil Forsyth, executive director of the Philadelphia Orchard Project. “Everybody likes the idea of trees — and especially trees that provide fruit. People are often shocked to hear that we have 52 orchards in the city.”
That’s a lot of trees to look after. Once the initial planning and planting are finished, the Orchard Project enlists schools, churches, low-income housing projects — even a prison — to tend the new orchards.
“Our community partners are the ones that do the day-to-day care of the orchards, watering, weeding, harvesting and then distributing the produce within their neighborhoods,” explained Forsyth. “Our role is in getting them started, and then also training them and providing ongoing support in how to maintain those spaces.”
The Philadelphia Orchard Project recently marked two milestones: planting its 50th orchard and 1,000th tree. To celebrate, an anonymous benefactor has donated $100,000, a gift they’ve dubbed the Pomona Fund, named for the Roman goddess of orchards.