By Robby Astrove, ALFI Orchard Project Coordinator
Orchards and fruit trees couldn’t be more fitting for the ATL. Our ‘City in a Forest,’ as we call it, is a beautiful forest garden city that just happens to have one hell of a thriving local food movement. While Seattle is getting a lot of the ‘food forest’ attention, we in the ATL have been steady planting.
Half a decade ago, the Atlanta Local Food Initiative started the ALFI Orchard Project to increase education about and improve fresh food access to communities by planting orchards at schools, parks, and community gardens. Fruit trees are perhaps the tastiest and most cost-effective solution to environmental, social, and economic challenges. They provide shade and regulate urban climates, mitigate flooding and erosion problems, increase access to nutrients and fresh food, purify air and water, build soil, provide food and habitats for wildlife, pollination, inspire us with beauty, and connect us. Fruit trees are the best, most sustainable, low-maintenance and long-term investment one can make in agriculture. They provide food for decades, and nothing does it as abundantly and eloquently as trees. Don’t you just love them?
Since 2010, ALFI has planted 21 orchards providing direct access to local food while improving the quality of Atlanta’s landscape. Over 150+ fruit trees, 50+ berry bushes, and 15 vines have been planted, and this impact will only grow with time. Citizens have received over 70 hours of direct educational instruction, many of them students in Title 1 schools. Other orchards are at community gardens that serve refugee farmers, city dwellers, and any visitor who happens upon them in city parks. The general feeling about the orchards is awesomeness!! As they produce fruit, anything not picked will be gleaned by Concrete Jungle and donated to food banks, homeless shelters, and the needy. Nothing goes to waste.
These orchards directly support ALFI’s Plan for Atlanta’s Sustainable Food Future and create food and beauty for the city.
What’s next? More, bigger, and better. We’re working on it—businesses with lawn space, churches, institutions, and municipalities can help scale up this effort and create even more impact. Many already have wellness and or sustainability policies and we are seeking partnerships to work together. Libraries, hospitals, recreation centers, hotels and convention grounds. Though anywhere is fair game, using GIS and other geographical data about food deserts, where existing community gardens are, as well as direct community input and requests; we are insuring future orchards go where they are needed most. Please send us a message if you would like to be considered for an ALFI orchard. Program and selection criteria is located here.
A BIG thank you to our 2014 ALFI Orchard Sponsors: Green House Foundation, Wellcom, Homestead Atlanta, and the many individuals who contributed towards online sponsorship! If you would like to make a contribution, please do so here.
We have one last planting to do this Monday, March 17 at City of Atlanta Fire Station 27 at 4260 Northside Dr., Atlanta, GA starting at 10 a.m. All are invited to celebrate the closing of a project that feeds, teaches, and inspires.Bring your willingness to dig, learn, and have fun!