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Baltimore Orchard Project Improves Food Access and Builds Community
“Fruit trees are one-stop shopping for healthy goodness,” says Nina Beth Cardin, founder and director of the Baltimore Orchard Project (BOP), a nonprofit dedicated to growing, gleaning, and giving away fresh, healthy, local fruit to those in Baltimore City.
Cardin talked about the importance of fruit trees at a UMB Go Green-sponsored sustainability workshop Feb. 21.
There were 150 orchards in Baltimore more than 100 years ago, she says, which included apples, peaches, plums, pears, cherries, and figs. BOP is working to bring that abundance back. Last year, the group planted more than 116 fruit trees and harvested 1,800 pounds of fruit.
With an estimated 20,000 vacant lots expected in the next three to five years, Cardin says community gardens can’t do it all. Orchards are beautiful and attract people. They help to resolve the issue of urban food deserts, which are low-income areas where residents have limited access to transportation and healthy food options.
“To be able to grow and control your own food supply, to have that food security, it’s not only good for people’s health, but good for their souls,” Cardin says.
In addition to improving food access, fruit trees benefit the environment. They clean the air, absorb stormwater, and create wildlife habitats. But unlike other trees, Cardin says, they feed us.
Fruit trees also create a sense of community.
“People need to feel they come from some place,” Cardin says. “We want people to be proud to say, ‘This is my neighborhood.’”
BOP works with local schools, congregations, and community organizations to plant trees and has plans to plant 150 to 200 trees this spring. For those interested in planting, TreeBaltimore offers free tree giveaways.
BOP also harvests local trees. If you see a fruit tree, register it with BOP.
The University and BOP will host a fruit tree planting event during Earth Week, April 25, at Southwest Baltimore Charter School.
“Fruit from today is a gift from the past generation,” Cardin says. “If we want fruit for the future, we need to plant now.”
— Tracy Gnadinger