Take a trip trip to the Fair Fair

Madeline Chera

What do you need to bring about change in the world? Maybe experience managing a non-profit? Perhaps you need a special penchant for grant-writing? How about just a garden hoe? According to Paul Glover, founder of Philly Orchard Project, you really don’t even need the hoe.

Glover, who will be speaking at the University Center for Peace & Justice Education’s upcoming Fair Fair event, began the Philly Orchard Project in response to the more than 60,000 hungry children in Philadelphia, as cited by a Philadelphia Health Management Corporation study.

“Philadelphia is full of beautiful children who deserve a city as beautiful as they are,” Glover said.

In an effort to create that beautiful city, Philly Orchard Project brings fresh, nutritious food to neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia by utilizing some of the city’s 30,000 unused lots to grow fruits, nuts and berries locally. Glover sees this productive use of the vacant space as a better alternative to the propositions made by members of civic bureaucracy to bring in consumptive meccas such as casinos and condominium complexes.

The Project is another example of the local movement emerging from Philadelphia, alongside BuyLocalPhilly and the Food Trust, among others. Like these organizations, Philly Orchard Project is motivated by a desire to promote sustainable development while simultaneously fostering close ties within the community.

One way that the Project does this is by opting to grow trees rather than cash crops. Trees provide shade and low-cost food while establishing a more permanent presence in the community and requiring less intensive maintenance.

Just as important, if not more so, is the fact that producing food locally decreases the city’s need for transporting food from far away. This cuts down on costs, oil dependence and the detriments to the environment that accompany corporate farming (toxic pesticides, marginalized family farms), factory processing (preservatives) and global transport (uncertain standards, carbon emissions).

Beyond all of these benefits, however, lies one of the most essential elements of the Philly Orchard Project, which uses the non-toxic Integrate Pest Management system instead of pesticides – the people who do the growing and the eating.

In addition to the food that is shared between neighbors in whichever way each neighborhood deems most equitable, Glover, self-avowedly lacking a green thumb himself, said, “[The Project] generates skills, spin-off business and pride.” He believes that “every 50 trees will reduce crime as much as one cop.”

By involving community members in a productive and cooperative activity, Glover sees Philadelphia as capable of becoming a pioneer of and role model for revitalized cities featuring urban orchards.

“We have gotten a great response from people throughout the city,” Glover said, citing donations of funds and land by private citizens and foundations alike, as well as continued commitment by eager volunteers.

In order to volunteer, you need only call Glover or go to the Project’s Web site (www.phillyorchards.org) and choose which skills you already have and which you would be interested in learning. The options range from helping with site selection through zoning advisement or soil analysis to rodent control, from pruning to canning, from debris clearing to drip irrigation to selling produce at local farmers markets.

After signing up, Glover and his cohorts invite volunteers to plantings and encourage them to just pitch in as they are guided by people who have already become skilled in a certain specialty. Glover revealed the philosophy behind this method for managing volunteers as he said, “We all have to be world leaders and experts. We need to learn by doing.”

So, if you would like to learn something new, produce something that is useful in the most basic way – that is, as sustenance – and build relationships with people who live nearby, it turns out that you don’t even need a garden hoe, let alone any proclivity for land trust law. You really don’t need anything except some motivation. Philly Orchard Project will provide the rest.

Paul Glover, founder of Philly Orchard Project, will be speaking at 2 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 3, as the capstone of the Villanova University Center for Peace & Justice Education’s Fair Fair, an all-day event in Connelly Center featuring businesses with sustainable practices.


Madeline Chera is a junior humanities major from Berwyn, Penn. She can be reached at [email protected]