Sunday, June 23, 2013

Henry Got Crops Orchard Update:

Last fall half the students of Saul high school, along with dozens of volunteers helped plant over 500 fruit tree, berries and nut trees. This was the beginning of the newest expansion at Henry Got Crops: a 1.5 acre orchard across the street from the vegetable field, behind the school. This is currently the largest orchard in Philadelphia (that I know of). We hope to be offering our own fruit shares to the public as well as fruit to the Saul cafeteria within a few years. Only a few of the berry bushes are fruiting a small amount this season.
Orchards require a lot of work up front in the form of planting, trellising, and making soil improvements. However, we aren’t going to be selling much fruit in the first few seasons, as all these plants take multiple years to mature. This poses a difficult situation- how to afford the time and money required to start an orchard when income is a few years off. Many of the tree and supplies have been covered by a grant from AcTree, and the generosity of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Weavers Way farm and farm education staff, with the help of students at Saul, as well as the Beginning Farmers Program have been chipping in to keep the orchard maintained. However, I really needed one person to be responsible for making sure the orchard was well maintained and managed. Chris Obrien, the farm apprentice from 2012 rose to the occasion has been keeping the orchard healthy and productive since the spring. He has replaced the few plants that did not survive the winter, as well as extended some of the rows to take advantage of all the space available in that field. He is watering, weeding and monitoring for pests and disease.
Jess McAtamney, a shareholder and teacher at Saul who acts as our liaison with the school, wrote a $1000 grant from DOW over the winter for signs for the orchard. She was successful with this application and the beautiful signs were installed last weekend. Much of the text for the signs was written by students as part of the farm education programs, here at Henry Got Crops. These signs will ensure that the orchard will serve as a living laboratory and not only provide healthy food for the community but also act as an educational resource.

Photo: Student Farmer Yonda Hudson helping to install the new orchard signs!

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