Santa Cruz Community Orchard
The Santa Cruz Community Orchard is an organization that develops and maintains public orchard gardens in the Santa Cruz area through volunteer efforts, providing fresh and nutritious produce freely to the community, while spreading skills in sustainable urban agriculture and land stewardship. Our Santa Cruz Garden Effort campaign connects a vibrant community in mutual support of food growing activites to support local food security.
Our flagship project is two public fruit orchards installed and maintained by community members in Santa Cruz’s downtown Lower Ocean/rivermouth neighborhoods, developed by volunteers in collaboration with the City of Santa Cruz Parks & Recreation Department. It is the first such project in Santa Cruz on public land, with the aim of providing fresh, nutritious food to the neighborhood, while also serving as an educational model such that Santa Cruz residents can equip themselves with the skills to replicate similarly sustainable land uses on other plots of ground. We have also initiated and maintain a food forest garden with the students at Harbor High School.
It is located at a bend in the San Lorenzo River that for nearly half a century bloomed with the famous and extensive pear orchards of Barson’s Riverside Hotel, said to fetch top prices on the Eastern seaboard to due the “fine rich silt” of our river plain.
The project’s first planting was in 2015 at Riverside Gardens Park, a small neighborhood park of recent construction. At this site we cultivate blueberries, two varieties of citrus, four varieties of grape, and nine varieties of heritage and coastal-adapted apples, pears, and Asian pear. Since its initial planting, the orchard here has hosted a number of educational maintenance workshops, drawing new and old faces each time, and has attracted environmental tour groups of local and international visitors.
Based on the success of our initial orchard, in 2017, over 60 community members again gathered to expand the orchard to a new and larger site, just across the street at Mike Fox Park. This new ground is an ideally situated, sunny location visible to ample Riverside Bridge traffic, adjacent to and accessible from the downtown levee Riverwalk, and providing our fruit trees the drought-tolerance and resilience inherent to the groundwater of the historic San Lorenzo River floodplain. Here we have planted lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges, tangelos, apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, and apriums, with more to come. The Santa Cruz Community Orchard will soon total as many as 35 fruit trees, and has so far involved several hundred Santa Cruz residents in its development, maintenance, and funding.
- Volunteers plant orchard for the future (Santa Cruz Sentinel, 2015)
- An orchard blooms: Community members create community orchard in Riverside Gardens Park (Santa Cruz Sentinel, 2015)