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Can Urban Orchards Really Help Create Amazing Communities?

Can Urban Orchards Really Help Create Amazing Communities?

Article by Terka Acton Open Orchards are urban orchards, by the Open Orchard Project, London, United Kingdom. Urban greening is known to play a role in helping us deal with climate change, pollution, and temperature regulation. But – as this people-powered United Kingdom project is proving – making the most of the green spaces in our cities can also yield social benefits. Improving the local environment by planting urban orchards in public spaces can help to strengthen bonds within communities. The Open Orchard project started in 2014 in West Norwood, south London. With the help of funding from The Open Works, a group of residents came together to plant fruit trees in and around this built-up urban area. Fruit trees are a good choice for cities, since they can be grown on dwarfing rootstocks to make use of the smallest planting space and – once established – need little maintenance.   …harnessed the power of social networks to ensure the project’s continuing success…   This is the story of how the Open Orchard team got started, how it harnessed the power of social networks to ensure the project’s continuing success, and how it is helping to increase the number of community-led urban orchards so that everyone can share in the benefits that come from closer connections between people and the land.

Urban Orchards

What Can Urban Orchards Do for You?

Community orchards are a creative, sustainable solution to many urban ills, offering access to fresh fruit, benefiting city environments, and creating much-needed habitats for wildlife. For Open Orchard founder Wayne Trevor, however, the most important aspect of the project is the opportunity to facilitate connections. Connecting local residents so that they can create and look after urban orchards is a great way to link these city dwellers (most of whom don’t have a garden of their own) both to the land and to each other.   “Children, especially, love to learn how to grow and harvest their own food”   With growing concerns about the societal disenfranchisement that arises from economic inequality, common spaces that allow for social interaction, bonding, and volunteering are more important to our cities than ever. There is also a strong educational element: Children, especially, love to learn how to grow and harvest their own food. And harvesting is a key part of the plan. Some residents are concerned about the kind of issues raised in this LAN article by Taylor Stapleton: 5 Reasons Why Planting Fruit Trees Along Sidewalks is a Terrible Idea — until they are reassured that these trees, unlike street trees, will be grown in orchards and be cared for by members of the community.

Open Orchard #1: Norwood Bus Garage, south London. Photo credit: @Open Orchard

Open Orchard #1: Norwood Bus Garage, south London. Photo credit: @Open Orchard

A Growing Movement The first of the project’s mini-orchards was planted in 2015 at Norwood Bus Garage, and over the next few months Open Orchard planted a total of 67 trees on nine sites. These sites included social housing developments, community centers, and parks, with residents living near to each space taking part in the planting and ongoing care of the trees.   “Donors are invited to choose what kind of tree they would like to give, and can come along to help plant it”   Open Orchard’s latest initiative is designed to engage an even wider community: Fruit trees can now be purchased via the project’s website. Donors are invited to choose what kind of tree they would like to give, and can come along to help plant it.
: Apple “Kidd’s Orange Red” starting to color. Fruit trees are carefully chosen for each location. Most fruit trees need at least six hours of sun each day, although cooking varieties can cope with semi-shade. Photo credit: @Open Orchard

Apple “Kidd’s Orange Red” starting to color. Fruit trees are carefully chosen for each location. Most fruit trees need at least six hours of sun each day, although cooking varieties can cope with semi-shade. Photo credit: @Open Orchard

Supporters keep in touch via social media, sharing information and articles year-round to build a strong community online, as well as on the ground in south London. Building Networks Getting the public involved from the start – and keeping people engaged so that the trees continue to be cared for, especially in the crucial first three years – is key to the success of the project, which relies entirely on donations and grant funding. With the conclusion of The Open Works (an experimental scheme to explore how fostering community schemes helps with community development) and cuts to other government funding for tree-planting schemes, community-led projects such as Open Orchard are becoming increasingly important. Fruit for the Future Open Orchard aims to plant many more public fruit trees in the immediate local area, and also to encourage the planting of community orchards in neighboring places. And the plan is working: With the help of volunteers from Open Orchard, residents of nearby Crystal Palace planted their first community orchard in December 2015.   …the Open Orchard team is part of a global movement, drawing inspiration and support from organizations such as California-based Fallen Fruit…   Local organizations and businesses have stepped up to help, and there is also a wider network out there. Edible planting in the urban environment is a hot topic all over the world, as LAN’s Rosemary Buchanan demonstrates here: 9 Ways to Incorporate Edible Planting into the Urban Landscape. So the Open Orchard team is part of a global movement, drawing inspiration and support from organizations such as California-based Fallen Fruit, which has been mapping and planting fruit trees in cities around the world since 2004; Seattle’s Beacon Food Forest; and The Urban Orchard Project, which promotes community orchards in cities all over Britain. WATCH >>> Fruit Trees & Refugees: Stoke Open Orchard

  …6.3 billion people living in urban areas, according to the United Nations…   By 2050, there will be 6.3 billion people living in urban areas, according to the United Nations, and the World Health Organization recommends that everyone should have access to green space within 300 meters of where they live. So we’re going to need more usable, shared green space – and it’s clear that urban orchards can help us to really benefit from every pocket of available land. Do you know of any potential urban orchard sites in your local area? Let us know in the comments below! Go to comments Learn more about The Open Orchard Project: Website: www.donaldsonandwarn.com.au Recommended Reading:

Article by Terka Acton Return to Homepage Featured Image: By Vladimir Menkov – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia

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