A year ago, the land around the Academy for College and Career Exploration in Hampden was a parking lot, acres of hard top, inhospitable to animal and human alike. It was too hot to play on comfortably, ugly to look at, and no longer needed for parking. In general, it was a wasted, unwanted eyesore in a community eager for more green, open space. Enter a dedicated crew with a vision of fields of fresh food growing in the school’s backyard. With the assistance of city agencies, non-profit organizations and school leadership, A.C.C.E. chopped up and removed that black top. They seeded the soil, let grass grow, plowed that grass back under to further enrich the soil and now have a robust garden. But they also wanted fruit trees.
Enter the Baltimore Orchard Project. Through our connection with Seth Wheeler (of the Baltimore Free Farm and Agritopia), BOP and ACCE got 40 fruit trees from TreeBaltimore. We planted them this past Wednesday (10/24/12) with the assistance of Mayor Rawlings-Blake, Holly Freistat (the city’s Food Policy Director), and the students, faculty and administration of ACCE. What we didn’t know until after the event was that 50 years ago, an orchard stood on the very spot where we were planting young fruit trees.
Some media folk were also there. These are the remarks I offered:
“100 years ago – Baltimore was a city of orchards. From down in the harbor to a bit south of here, 150 orchards abounded. They were used for commerce and personal consumption. They were made into food, fodder and drink. They contributed to people’s health and food security, and to the city’s economic vibrancy and natural beauty. Apples, peaches, plums, pears, cherries and figs all thrive here.
The Baltimore Orchard Project is working to bring back the blessings of abundant fruit to the City of Baltimore. We do that in two ways:
First, we harvest fruit that is otherwise going to waste and give it to those in need. This season, we harvested almost 2,000 pounds of fruit with the help of 50 volunteers and gave it to 12 soup kitchens, shelters, congregations and schools.
Second, we partner with schools, congregations, individuals and civic organizations to plant more trees. Like we are doing today.
This fall, with the gracious and generous partnership of TreeBaltimore, we will be planting 96 fruit trees at 16 schools and congregations. And this is just our first year!
The trees we plant here today will feed thousands of children tomorrow. One mature fruit tree can produce over 800 pounds of fruit. With a healthy combination of good luck and good care, in a few years, these forty fruit trees can yield 40 days of free fruit for every child in this school, every year for decades to come.
That is the blessing of fruit trees. They are a gift that one generation gives another. For most of us, the fruit we eat today comes from trees planted years ago by people we’ll never know. Here too: these trees, planted and nurtured by the children of ACCE today, will bring forth fruit for them, but also will feed children years from now most of whom we’ll never meet.
So as we eat fruit today that was gifted to us by those who came before, so we give these trees not only as gifts to the students of today, but also to the many children who come after us tomorrow.”
And that is just the beginning!