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The Philadelphia Orchard Project, or POP, was a recipient of a $43,500 operating grant at Impact100 Philadelphia’s June 2018 Annual Meeting and Engagement Fair. POP and their partners transform neglected or underutilized land in Philadelphia into beautiful community spaces providing fresh fruit for city residents. Since 2007, they have worked with community groups to plan and plant 47 orchards in neighborhoods across the city and currently supports a total of 61 city orchards. In the short term, planning and maintaining urban orchards is a powerful tool to bring people together and cultivate community. In the long-term, urban orchards build neighborhood food sovereignty and reconnect city residents to nature, the food system, and each other.

In the eight months since their award, POP has made tremendous progress in expanding services to their constituents and securing their organizational future with careful, strategic decisions and targeted growth. A key goal for POP was to develop a headquarters at The Woodlands, a 19th century National Historic Landmark, in West Philadelphia. This headquarters will provide Philadelphia Orchard Project with centralized working space with sufficient room to support staff, house equipment and grow trees for orchards. The Woodlands Board of Directors formally voted to approve this site partnership in September. Preliminary drawings for the proposed infrastructure are in process, with the hope to begin construction in 2019.

POP also needed additional staff to facilitate growth and new initiatives. As a result of Impact100 Philadelphia’s funding, POP was able to create a new Orchard Assistant staff position to provide direct on-the-ground staff support to orchards across the city. They were also able to expand the role of their Education Director, and she now also oversees an Education Intern and Repair the World Fellow. The team continues to develop new curriculum with school partners:  total lesson plans delivered are up 57% so far this year!

Philadelphia Orchard Project staff piloted a new Harvest Education program engaging community educators from across the city through workshops on cultural, culinary, and medicinal uses of orchard plants in conjunction with gleaning events. The harvest was particularly robust with the addition of a Harvest Intern in August.

One of the proudest achievements of the School Orchard Program this year was the creation of dynamic sensory-activity storybooks on honeybees, apples, and earthworms for use with students at Overbrook School for the Blind. POP’s honey bee lesson guidebook has been selected for adaption for pilot use with 10 special needs classrooms citywide this fall through the Grow Ability Education Collective. This consortium joins partners including POP, Overbrook School for the Blind, Elwyn, Easterseals, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Penn State Master Gardeners, Greener Partners, Philadelphia Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center, 4-H, Associated Services for the Blind, in adapting an agricultural curriculum for special needs communities. One teacher in the Overbrook School for the Blind described the Philadelphia Orchard Project partnership this way:

“Our school orchard provides beauty, a space for learning, and a source for nutritious food that is utilized by students and staff alike.  I think Philadelphia Orchard Project has been nothing but exceptional in providing sensory based lessons for students with visual impairment and multiple disabilities that incorporate tactual objects and promote student engagement.”

Philadelphia Orchard Project is a small but mighty organization that is transforming its capacity, scope, and reach with the help of Impact100 Philadelphia. We look forward to hearing more about its progress! To learn more about them, click HERE.

Special thanks to Impact100 Philadelphia member Alice Hausman for her contribution.