Community Orchards

Growing interest in community gardens and community orchards has led to an increase in community-oriented agriculture.

| Fall 2014

With the growing popularity of community gardens, a natural extension is the community orchard. It appears that interest in them is, indeed, about to take off.

For the sake of this article, “orchard” not only means a patch of fruit trees, but can also describe nut groves, vineyards, and areas of bramble or other fruiting plants with a permanent nature that take years to produce from initial young planting, and then produce year after year needing ongoing maintenance.

Guy K. Ames, NCAT (National Center for Appropriate Technology) Horticulture Specialist and author of “Community Orchards,” published by NCAT, has a specific definition for the type of community orchards this article discusses. He describes them as “an orchard that is not being managed for private profit and is cared for by some community of people.”

Beginnings of the Community Orchard Movement

Nature was certainly the first community orchard. Surely it’s in our genetic memory to harvest nearby fruits and nuts within the tribe’s territory as long as it didn’t overstep into another’s territory.

In more modern times, Ames describes the community orchard movement as starting in England in the early 1990s with older privately owned orchards. The orchards were no longer being taken care of or were threatened by encroaching development. Citizen groups who wanted to preserve beautiful green space, older fruit varieties, local history and healthy eating gathered to find ways to save the orchards. These groups often raised money to lease or buy the orchard, then organized methods for ongoing care and harvest.

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