Volunteers to Break Ground on New Community Orchard in Santa Cruz

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Over the past several years, The Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project (http://fruitcruz.org)–a nonprofit program known for organizing community fruit harvests to make use of excess backyard fruit–has been working with local ecological design outfit Seed Culture Labs (http://seedculture.org), in collaboration with the City of Santa Cruz Parks & Rec and a coalition of neighbors, to develop the city’s first community orchard. Riverside Community Orchard was launched in early 2015 when more than fifty volunteers came out to plant twelve dwarf apple, pear, and citrus trees along a fence line at Riverside Gardens Park.

This February, the group will break ground on a major expansion of the orchard, planting upwards of twenty more trees across the street, in an open area adjacent to the skate park and ball courts of Mike Fox Park, by the San Lorenzo River levee. The orchard will be tended by volunteers as a fruit-bearing public resource, and will play host to a variety of educational workshops. Interestingly, much of this neighborhood was once the site of a famous pear orchard, in the flood plain of the pre-levee river, from the late 19th century up to the 1940s.

Visualization of 2017's major expansion of Riverside Community Orchard, at maturity. Mike Fox Park, Santa Cruz, California. (Visualization: Seed Culture Labs)
Visualization of 2017’s major expansion of Riverside Community Orchard, at maturity. Mike Fox Park, Santa Cruz, California. (Visualization: Seed Culture Labs)

Weather permitting, there will be a ceremonial ground-breaking event at 12pm on Saturday, February 4th, including a few words from leaders of the orchard project as well as Mayor Cynthia Chase. In case of heavy rain, or if the soil is heavily saturated from prior days of rain, the tree-planting will be delayed until the following Saturday, February 11th.

There will be plenty of work to do that day, and all are encouraged to to come learn and contribute. In addition to help digging in the trees, the program is also seeking donations to support the purchase of trees, gopher wire, soil amendments, and irrigation material. Tax-deductible donations can be made online (http://gofundme.com/riverside-community-orchard).

Visualization of the first site of Riverside Community Orchard, planted 2015, at maturity (Visualization: Seed Culture Labs)
Visualization of the first site of Riverside Community Orchard, planted 2015, at maturity (Visualization: Seed Culture Labs)

While this development of an orchard on public park land in Santa Cruz is a first, it is a continuation of a trend gaining hold around the country and the world. Dozens of cities such as Seattle, Philadelphia and London are developing extensive community orchard programs, while here in Santa Cruz County, the Mesa Verde Gardens program has planted gardens and orchards in collaboration with churches that have extra land. Organizers of such spaces see public gardens and orchards as important for a variety of reasons, ranging from environmental sustainability and improving the aesthetic of urban spaces, to contributing to a more just food system that provides healthy produce for everyone.

What: Volunteers, in collaboration with the City of Santa Cruz Parks & Rec, will be breaking ground on a community orchard, enriching the soil and planting ~20 fruit trees.
Where: Mike Fox Park, alongside the San Lorenzo River levee by the Riverside Ave Bridge.
When: Saturday, February 4th, 12pm, weather permitting.

Follow Andy Moskowitz:

I am an ecological designer and community horticulturist in Santa Cruz, California. Read more about Seed Culture Labs or contact me directly.

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