Apr 182011

T-shirt design for Bloomington Community Orchard (see link at page bottom)

Perhaps our orchard group tapped into the universal mind as it appears we are part of a world wide movement to bring back lost orchards and create new ones. In 1992 a group in England called Common Ground formed a group that has a mission of linking nature with culture. One of their programs is Community Orchards which offers a way of saving vulnerable old orchards and creating opportunities to plant new ones.  They argue that “Community Orchards should be open and accessible at all times. They may be owned or leased for or by the community (or held by agreement) by a community group, parish council, or by a local authority or voluntary body.

As well as enjoying the place, local people can share the harvest or profit from its sale, taking responsibility for any work in the orchard.” Common Ground suggests that, “The success of a Community Orchard lies in the strength of local commitment to it. Local people are the key to running it and deciding how it is used. These orchards do not have economic fruit production as their raison d’être, yet they might just pay for themselves, with income generated through the sale of fruit and other produce – everything from wild flower seeds to mistletoe.”

Common Ground has promoted Apple Day held in October each year and Apple Day events are held around the country to celebrate and demonstrate that variety and richness matter to a locality and that it is possible to affect change in your place.

They have published several books. The Common Grounds Book of Orchards “explores how orchards continue to shape local culture from custom to kitchen and urges us to value old orchards of tall trees for their delicate ecology and local distinctiveness.” The Apple Source Book described as a “Lovely treasury of all things appley.” You can read a sample chapter from the source book here.

I was interested in this description of a relatively new community orchard project which resembled our own effort at the Curry Preserve  ”

Fifty local people helped to plant 46 apple trees.  Individual trees were protected with sturdy wooden cage type guards. The grassland beneath the trees is mown twice a year by the council. A 50-centimetre clearance is left around each tree when mowing. Local residents have carried out weeding and mulching within the area of the tree guards. A standpipe has enabled people to water the young trees if necessary. A management plan was completed with help from the London Ecology Unit. A longer-term plan for the orchard will be drawn up by the council and the Friends of Blondin Park. Ideas include fruit production, links with schools, training for new skills, grazing of the orchard by sheep, wild life observances and seating. The orchard may be expanded to take in many of the existing cherry trees within the nature area. Very few trees have been lost since planting. This is partly due to the orchard’s location off a main road behind overlooking houses, but also because people enjoy the orchard and see it working. Losses of any trees are replaced. The establishment of a Friends Group – 50 members at time of writing – has led to collaboration between local people and the council to improve the area. A management plan for the whole nature area, including the orchard, is being jointly prepared. Local people are using a public open space and beginning to work together and think creatively about new opportunities for its social use and its benefit to the local environment. Apple Day has been celebrated in the orchard since 1997.”

My own opinion is that we should continue to look for places on the island where we can plant community orchards. These could be trees planted on the perimeter of properties like the Grange or the Library or the Church. It would be exciting if the Grange, Library and Church got behind the idea of planting food trees on their property. After all, there is very little “public” property on the island.

Perhaps there is a way that conservation easements can be written to give access to orchards on private property.  Perhaps there will be land that can be purchased by the community for use as orchard. It would seems that The Heritage Trust would be the logical vehicle for such an idea. It’s just a matter of expanding the definition of “preservation.” Hopefully, the progress at the Curry will inspire more people to be enthused about the community orchard concept and generate additional opportunities and even an annual celebration like Apple Day which has been suggested by commenters on this blog.

*The website of the Bloomington, Indiana Community Orchard


  9 Responses to “Community Orchards”

  1. Interesting article. Don’t like the harvest for profit part. If you are planning on selling apple pies at the farmers market, I don’t think the fruit could come from the Heritage Trust, the Grange, or the Church, without conflicting with their non-profit status.

  2. On the other hand, pies, and fritters made from donated Curry apples would be a good way to show off our wares someday at an Apple Day of our own making on October 21st.
    All sorts of ‘educational opportunities’ come to mind for non-profits to fulfill their mandates of serving the public good.
    If someone wishes to support that organization with a donation, all the better.

  3. I think I’ve found our next orchard site.
    The Ferry Parking Lot – The grass area where the home was moved off of is about the same area as the Curry Orchard(70 x 125), and has about 5 mature fruit trees on the perimeter that need some TLC. We could put a nice large bench in the middle for people waiting for the ferry, a some chippings the next time the County is tree trimming.
    It seems the County wouldn’t mind having some local stewards looking after the orchard and mowing the grass from time to time. It has water up to the meter, and is convenient to beautiful downtown Lummi Island.
    What say ye, one and all?

  4. Mike….that’s a great idea re: the ferry parking lot…..Becca and I owned the house and the adjacent lot….bought it from Irene McFarland….Now, when I walk through the property and look at the fruit trees I always remember how they used to bear a lot of fruit. Anyways, worth looking into….I can’t see how the County can refuse.

  5. I think Irene and the Grangers would be pleased to see the Gra-Mac Orchard Park made into a reality.
    2-0 (nearly a consensus)

  6. What could be better than eating an apple while waiting for the ferry?!

  7. Better be careful when you you start digging- I know there is a drainfield in there somewhere- and who
    knows what else old Ray ( and then Bert) buried in that yard1?
    Seems like a good spot that is just setting unused.

  8. Good point Steve….I forgot….we had a drainfield put in that spot to replace Ray’s old single pipe. Something to deal with before planting.

  9. Hey Mike, I like the orchard in the parking lot idea… but then I’ll have to put to rest my vision of using that space for a sort of bandstand–covered stage for island musicians and thespians… I imagine folks bringing blankets, lunches, and sitting outside in the sunshine (I said this was a fantasy, right?) to watch local productions…. Fruit trees are nice, too.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>