By Jessica Lovell
Imagine walking down a local street, spotting a pear or an apple on a nearby tree, and reaching out to pluck that fruit. Imagine the tree is not behind a fence in somebody’s yard, but is on a school playground or a public boulevard.
That is the vision behind the Guelph Community Orchard Project, which will begin planting fruit and nut trees on one of two proposed sites this spring.“In a nutshell, what we are envisioning is that these sites will empower other individuals and groups to plant similar orchards, so that edible fruits and nuts may one day make up a significant portion of the trees planted in this city,” said Bethany Klapwyk, one of the project’s organizers.
Klapwyk is currently working on starting a small farm with her partner, and she has a particular interest in fruit and nut trees. Knowing her interest, a friend sent her some information about grant money available through Tree Canada.
“It just evolved from that point,” said Klapwyk.
She started to connect with various local organizations, including Transition Guelph, Backyard Bounty, Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming, The Patch Guild, Guelph Urban Forest Friends and the Guelph Community Garden Network. The grant application was done under Transition Guelph, and just last week the group learned that it had been awarded $3,000 from Tree Canada’s Edible Trees program.
“It will just be a start,” said Klapwyk of the funding. “We’re hoping to do some fundraising events, too.”
Luckily, the project already has two partners willing to provide land to plant the trees. Through the Community Garden Network, the group found Harcourt Memorial United Church and the Guelph Community Christian School.
“They have a community garden there already, and they have a lot of greening initiatives on the go, so they were interested,” Klapwyk said of Harcourt.
The Christian school is hoping to start a community garden at its new location at the former College Avenue Public School, so fruit trees would go well with this plan, she said.
“They have more than two acres that could be planted on behind the school,” said Klapwyk.
The two locations will fit in well with the projects four main goals: nurturing relationships between residents, school and church groups, urban farmers and environmental organizations; fostering fruit and nut tree awareness through demonstration and education programs; increasing food security by providing donations to local food pantries; and making a positive difference to the local environment by planting trees.
What exactly will be planted has not yet been determined.
“We put together a proposed tree list of things we know do well in the area,” said Klapwyk.
“It’s going to be an organic orchard. That means we’re going to have to have a lot of different things.”
There may be an opportunity to plant some interesting fruits that most people don’t know about, such as arctic kiwi or chum – a combination of cherry and plum, said Klapwyk.
“We’d want to have as many varieties as we can,” she said. The point is to show people that food does grow on trees. “This is not to go to waste and fall to the ground; this is to eat,” Klapwyk said.
These days, people talk about “feeding the world,” but ornamental varieties of trees that have the edible qualities bred out are still being planted widely, she said.
“We will incorporate a wide diversity of native and non-native edible trees in our plantings to demonstrate what can be grown in this climate, as well as trees and plants that offer other benefits.
“In permaculture, a theory of ecological design, reference is made to ‘food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer, farmaceuticals, and fun’ – these are all concepts we are working with to help establish the orchard sites,” said Klapwyk.
The project organizers plan to start planting at Harcourt in May and at the Christian school in the fall, and they are welcoming anyone who wants to share in the process to come out to a community design charette on April 14 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the church.
The session will be a chance to hear about the project, tour the orchard site and share design ideas, said Klapwyk. It will be led by local landscape designer Bryan McPherson.
The first tree planting is scheduled for May 15.
Anyone who wants to get involved in the project is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit guelphcommunityorchard.wordpress.com.