Establishing Partnerships To Plant Community Groves


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In response to the growing need for access to fresh and nutritious food in cities, community organizations are training residents to grow and maintain their own fruit and nut trees. To help urban greening professionals improve the health and livability of neighborhoods by planting and caring for fruit and nut trees, Alliance for Community Trees launched the Community Groves℠ program in 2013. Community Groves℠ resources and best practices enable local organizations to address issues of nutrition, land use, and food access through tree planting and care. Fruit and nut trees can be your next step towards healthier, more sustainable, and more secure communities.

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  • Thanks, Sarah, and thanks everyone for joining today to hear about Community Groves. If you’re not familiar with our organization, Alliance for Community Trees is a national nonprofit founded in 1993 to support the work of local urban forestry organizations.Today our network includes hundreds of organizations that are working to plant and care for trees in towns and cities. This includes grassroots community groups, nonprofit organizations, municipal government departments, statewide agencies, and more, in cities large and small, from coast to coast and all in between.To date, ACTrees member organizations have planted over 15 million trees with help from over 5 million volunteers.
  • Our goal is to support all of that good local work… through grants, training, technical support, networking, and education. Here are just a few of the programs we operate throughout the year…
  • Like I said, everything we do is to help our member organizations bring the benefits of trees to their communities.Here are some of the many ecosystem and economic benefits of urban forests, which you’re probably familiar with.We know that healthy trees make healthy communities – trees have an enormous impact on public health…
  • Here are a few examples…In terms of public health, today I want to look at one of greatest challenges that our country is facing is,
  • One health issue in America that is particularly troubling, and that we think trees can play an important role in addressing, is hunger and America’s food security crisis.You can see these, I think, quite shocking statistics
  • If those percentages are too abstract or seem low, the real numbers make it even clearerThis is clearly a major problem in American life—there is food insecurity in every county in America, in every state.As an organization thatis dedicated to improving the health and livability of neighborhoods through trees, we feel that we as urban foresters have a role to play in solving this enormous health issue. And the answer is simple: it’s trees. Specifically fruit and nut trees.
  • If communities are struggling with access to nutritious food, let’s put a food source right in the community. Let’s plant fruit and nut trees that provide fresh, local, accessible, affordable, nutritious food, right where people live.Forget mitigating stormwater runoff or carbon sequestration– providing food is one of the oldest uses and benefits of trees for humans! Fruit and nut trees have supported human nutrition for thousands of years.
  • So to help harness this fundamental benefit of trees, and help people to bring the nutrition benefits of trees to their communities, late last year, we launched the Community Groves program.Community Groves is a roadmap for bringing fruit and nut trees to any neighborhood. Any local organization or group of residents or concerned, energized individuals can use the Community Groves resources to help them plan, implement and maintain a neighborhood grove of food trees for their community.
  • Now, we know it’s not quite that simple – you can’t just take a fruit tree, plop it in the ground, and be done with it. So three years ago, ACTrees began researching the current understanding, knowledge base, and practice of planting food-producing trees in towns and cities. We found that communities of all sizes and demographics are eager to establish or re-establish fruit and nut tree groves for quality produce.While fruit and nut trees have been a source of human nutrition for millennia, our research showed that today there’s an extensive generational gap of knowledge, skills, and experience. In recent decades, with changes in the food system and modern urban development, the knowledge that older generations of urban homeowners had about growing and caring for fruit and nut trees was not passed down to new generations. This is a real obstacle.So we designed Community Groves to help change that. The program is meant to help local organizations reconnect people with their food and really return this age-old agroforestry tradition to its place as an important urban practice for creating greener and healthier communities.
  • The good news is that a lot of local organizations have begun doing this, have begun meeting the rising public demand for fruit trees, and have been planting community orchards for the last several years. And a lot of those groups are ACTrees members.So to learn from their good work and to continue support it, as part of the development of our program, in 2011 ACTrees partnered with the USDA People’s Garden initiative to support thirty Community Groves pilot projects across the country.These 30 Community Groves had incredible results in communities from coast to coast, as you can see.They also provided fantastic insights for us into the motivations, obstacles, best practices, and methodologies of planting fruit and nut trees in community settings. And we distilled a lot of this into the Community Groves Guidebook.
  • The Community Groves Guidebook is sort of the keystone of the Community Groves program. This compiles lessons from urban orchard projects across the country, along with expert input, publications, manuals, and more. This resource offers step-by-step guidance for nonprofits, community leaders, and residents to grow their own Community Groves.  It covers the really important considerations that need to be planned out in advance as you put together your Community Groves projects.
  • The Guidebook is downloadable on our website,, but I want to just run through some of these important considerations, and then you can download the Guidebook to see more.Site selection: enough space? Soil conditions? Water access? More…Gathering Partners: this is really important, and Matt is going to give you more insight into this. We know this is critical because fruit and nut trees require significant long-term care. What we learned is that there’s really no end to the list of individuals, businesses, and organizations you can work with to plant Community Groves – planting fruit and nut trees stands at the intersection of SO many goals and appeals to a wide array of partners, so this kind of work may open doors to working with groups you haven’t previously engaged. -Nonprofit organizations: from YMCA’s to Audubon society chapters, garden clubs to boys or girls scouting groups -Civic groups like neighborhood associations, land trusts, chambers of commerce, and community revitalization coalitions -Businesses – orchard project organizers have had success working with a wide array of businesses including grocery stores, natural food stores, restaurants, waste colleciton services, real estate developers, composting companies, food service providers, and more. -Obviously, community gardens are a natural fit for a partner -Government Agencies – Department of Agriculture, State Cooperative Extension, Housing Authority, and more…even the Department of Corrections, as at one Community Groves pilot project in Lincoln, NE, by the Nebraska Forest Service -Schools– lots of different ways to connect with schools, from elementary schools up to universities, and through all different entry points. A couple important considerations especially for working with schools: -Make initial contact long in advance -Assemble an extensive project team so as not to burden already-stressed school resources -Establish student “tree stewards” or similar programs -Identify a strong supporter inside the school system -Engage college students and let them take the lead. More on this in the Guidebook
  • Alright, a couple more… really quick:-Long Term Planning for Harvesting and Use. These trees are ideally going to produce fruits and nuts for years to come – how are you going to manage that? -A free “you-pick” policy? -Arrange volunteer or paid harvesting followed by specific distribution through farmers markets or community gardens? -Establish designated partnership with area food banks for both harvesting & distribution -Harvest for on-site use at schools, health care facilities, or other public institutions? -What kind of educational offerings will you provide to community members, not just about harvesting and tree care but also about nutrition and how to eat and use the produce?Soil Testing – obviously this is critical, especially when working in urban areas we’re concerned about soil quality. I think Matt may be speaking to an innovative technique that Tree Pittsburgh used to overcome some of their soil quality concerns when planting their fruit and nut trees in Pittsburgh.Selecting the right kinds of trees, and sourcing them – this can be difficult, may need to start in advance or be flexible about the species you’ll plant depending on availability and what’s appropriate for your site and planned use.Planting Trees Correctly is criticalAnd so is Maintaining your trees…proper pruning can affect the tree’s lifetime yield, you want to make sure you’re doing that right. -You also need to establish a plan for pest control…you don’t want pests to inviade and ruin the hard work you’ve done to establish your new food tree orchard
  • With that said, I’m almost ready to turn it over to Matt, but I just want to emphasize that there are SO many ways to introduce fruit and nut trees and grow Community Groves in your city. These projects can take all shapes and forms. You’re about to hear one or two great examples from Matt.I strongly encourage you to take a look at the website and read those case studies to get an idea of the real diversity of opportunities to implement something like this.Really, it’s whatever fits the specific site and neighborhood and community needs in the place you’re looking to work. We know that our cities’ urban forests can and should be part of the solution. We’ve seen a lot of ways to do this, but you may come up with something we haven’t seen or thought of yet – although that’s not necessary, a standard planting at an existing community garden is fine too.Whatever your project looks like, it’s going to make a difference and help create healthier, more livable, more nutritious, and more sustainable communities for everyone. We’re really excited about Community Groves and hope you’ll take part, whether through our grants, through our other resources – it doesn’t just need to come through our grants, but you can use the Guidebook, and our plannign and press tools to grow your own Community Groves with the partnerships and the funders and in the places that are right for your community.
  • Establishing Partnerships To Plant Community Groves

    1. 1. Establishing Partnerships to Plant Community GrovesSM Leland Milstein, Program Director, Alliance for Community Trees (Washington, DC) In 2013 ACTrees launched the Community Groves℠ program to improve the health and livability of neighborhoods by planting and caring for fruit and nut trees. Community Groves℠ includes case studies, a guidebook, and grants to guide the successful establishment of fruit and nut trees in cities nationwide. Matthew Erb, Director of Urban Forestry, Tree Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA) Tree Pittsburgh participated in the Community Groves℠ pilot grant program to plant edible species in several Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Several years later, the organization has established a partnership with Grow Pittsburgh to develop quality instruction and programming for residents around community gardening and general fruit and nut tree care.
    2. 2. Establishing Partnerships to Plant Community GrovesSM Alliance for Community Trees Webcast February 20, 2014
    3. 3. Alliance for Community Trees A national network of 200+ nonprofits and agencies that promote the environmental, economic, public health, and social benefits of trees and urban forests. 2/24/2014 3
    4. 4. What We Do ACTrees Programs support local urban forestry efforts • National NeighborWoods® Month • ACTrees Day • Webcast Series Learn more at 2/24/2014 4
    5. 5. Forests for an Urban Population Urban forests are critical for livable cities: • Air quality Photo: Urban Forest Map 2/24/2014 • Water quality and management • Energy conservation • Beautification • Property Values • Safety • Economic vitality 5
    6. 6. Trees and Human Health Trees and Green Space improve physical and mental health: • • • • • • 2/24/2014 Stress Recovery Attention disorders Asthma Obesity Exercise 6
    7. 7. Food Security in the U.S. 1 in 6 Americans is hungry 1 • 14.5% of households are food insecure: at some point during the year, they were uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other 2 resources for food. • Over 5% of households experience very low food security: at some point during the year, because of affordability or access, they had to reduce their normal intake of food. 1. Feeding America 2. U.S. Department of Agriculture 2/24/2014 7
    8. 8. Food Insecurity in the U.S. • Over 23 million Americans live in food deserts: urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. • 49 million people live in food insecure households. – 8.3 million children – Nearly 1 million children live with very low food security 2/24/2014 8
    9. 9. Trees for Human Nutrition Photo: Kim Severson 2/24/2014 9
    10. 10. Introducing… 2/24/2014 10
    11. 11. Investigating Urban Forestry and Community Agriculture 2/24/2014 11
    12. 12. Community Groves℠ Pilot + 2/24/2014 12
    13. 13. Community Groves℠ Guidebook • The Community Groves℠ Guidebook helps nonprofits, community leaders, and residents plan, establish, and maintain fruit and nut tree orchards. 2/24/2014 13
    14. 14. Important Considerations for Planning Your Community Groves℠ • Site Selection • Gathering Partners – Nonprofit Organizations – Civic Groups – Businesses – Community Gardens – Government Agencies – Schools • Special considerations 2/24/2014 14
    15. 15. Even More Considerations… • Long-term Planning for Harvesting and Use • Soil Testing • Selecting & Sourcing Trees • Planting Trees • Care & Maintenance • and more… 2/24/2014 15
    16. 16. Community Groves℠ Resources • • Guidebook • Case Studies • Grants – Announcing 2014 Community Groves℠ Grants on Monday – Available to current ACTrees Members – join or renew! – Up to $2,500 to establish Community Groves℠ – 1:1 non-federal match required – More details in RFP – Deadline: April 11, 2014 2/24/2014 16
    17. 17. Community Groves℠ Come in All Shapes and Sizes… 2/24/2014 17
    18. 18. Leland Milstein Program Director 202-291-TREE (8733)
    19. 19. Questions?
    20. 20. & Fruit Trees Matthew Erb
    21. 21. Who currently has a fruit tree planting program?
    22. 22. Fruit Trees Pros Cons • • • • • • • • • • Fresh fruit Local fruit Varieties Building Community More Trees! Gateway tree Improper pruning cuts! Pest and Disease Issues Varieties Ownership of fruit on public fruit trees • Rotting fruit • Hardiness • Time and labor
    23. 23. ACTrees People’s Garden Grant • Partnership between Grow Pittsburgh/Tree Pittsburgh • Identified 2 community gardens that we very interested in planting fruit trees • Educational component for the public and required for community gardeners • Began a public input phase to discuss varieties of fruit and nut trees and locations to plant
    24. 24. Michael Phillips • Provided a full day lecture and field training
    25. 25. hugelkultur • Both gardens located on former vacant lots • All vegetables and fruits currently grown in raised beds • Cost prohibitive to truck in large amounts of soil
    26. 26. Species • • • • • Amelanchier spp. – serviceberry Asimina triloba - pawpaw Cornus mas – cornelian cherry dogwood Corylus colurna – Turkish filbert Pyrus pyrifolia – Asian pear Availability, shipping, quality and time of year
    27. 27. Nursery Trees • American chestnut hybrids • American persimmon • Pawpaw • Hickories • Hazelnuts
    28. 28. Questions?
    29. 29. Thank You! Please take a minute to answer the survey questions that appear at the close of this session.