Plant an urban fruit orchard
Many park people across Canada have introduced fruit orchards into public spaces to improve food security, promote food literacy, reach environmental goals and increase community cohesion. Here’s what you need to know about planting and maintaining an urban orchard in your city.
The positive impact of people sharing food in public space simply can’t be overstated. Many park people across Canada have introduced fruit orchards into public spaces to improve food security, promote food literacy, reach environmental goals and increase community cohesion. We spoke with Anita Georgy, Executive Director of Richmond Food Security Society, and Catherine Falk, Community Greening Coordinator at the City of Edmonton, about their on-the-ground experiences running programs that utilize urban fruit trees for public benefit. Here’s what you need to know about planting and maintaining an urban orchard in your city.
Fruit tree recovery responds to food waste and addresses food securityOne of the biggest complaints about fruit trees is that if the fruit’s not picked, the fallen fruit creates a mess surrounding the trees. The good news is that there are now many fruit recovery programs in cities across Canada. Organizations, such as the Richmond Food Security Society, Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, Hidden Harvest Ottawa, Not Far From the Tree and Found Forgotten Food Nova Scotia are helping to glean excess fruit from privately owned trees and share the would-be-wasted fruit with food banks, volunteers and the owners of the tree. This keeps the fruit off the ground and puts it into the hands of people who can really use it.
Planting fruit-bearing perennials in parks can help municipalities reach canopy goalsIn 2013, the City of Edmonton launched the Root for Trees campaign to establish a 20% canopy cover over 10 years while engaging and educating the community. The program is focused on increasing the canopy with native species only. Fruit-bearing plants like cranberry and serviceberry are regularly planted as part of the program. Catherine, who coordinates the Root for Trees program explains, planting a food forest helps the city satisfy habitat planting goals while contributing to food security. The Food Forest is located along a busy river valley trail system and because of that, it is available for anyone to utilize the growing bounty of fresh berries. Because the fruit-bearing perennials they plant are native to the region, the project worked as a restoration project and provide food to passersby.
When there’s food involved, community members want to be a part of itThe initial idea for the Edmonton Food Forest planting came when a local school teacher with a strong interest in urban agriculture approached the city with an idea to include only food-bearing native plants in the river valley. Since the initial food forest planting in 2014, over 4,000 fruit-producing shrubs have been planted and the city has expanded the food forest to 1/4 hectare. The Forest brings people to the space and fosters awareness of watersheds and environmental stewardship while improving food security. There is a large community interest in the Food Forest planting that has attracted volunteer planters from as far away as Calgary to join in on the project. Neighbourhoods across Edmonton are now requesting their own food forests.
You can think of your vegetables (tomatoes, cucumber, kale) as a cash bank account you can withdraw from regularly. A food forest produces more and more food over time. You can think of it as an RRSP. Planting perennial vines and fruit is a solid long term investment in food security.Anita Georgy Richmond Food Security Society