From Apple Days to sunny picnics to midwinter pruning parties – there are lots of ways to involve the local community in your new Community Orchard. The more people involved the easier it will be to look after the trees, and for the first three years you will need to give them (the trees) a fair bit of attention.
Before planting is the ideal time to involve people, and the planting day itself can bring in more. Some people are suddenly interested when the heavy tools come out. Others will value being asked to make tea (and cake). Spray painted fruit variety names on the tree guards can also appeal. Be friendly and don’t be shy – you are bringing something great to people. Orchards can bring a lot of fun and beauty to people’s lives, as well as free fruit.
Communications on Project Dirt, Twitter and Facebook are great. One orchard even has its own account and tweets about itself. To reach a wide group of people, add a bright poster campaign at the place you are planting and in local cafés, launderettes and other community spaces and have leaflets ready to hand out.
Small and large events will provide excitement – invest in a peeler corer slicer and hold a longest peel competition. Apple bobbing is always a hit. Anything involving free food can be very appealing.
The best thing you can possibly do is speak to each and every person living locally (or everyone in the playground if you are planting in a school). Speak to the landowner too – usually a housing association or local authority. They may give you some extra support – such as providing a meeting room. Be enthusiastic, outline the benefits, listen to people’s stories of scrumping as kids, politely walk away from anyone who yells about leaves causing mess, and patiently address genuine concerns such as ‘Will the orchard attract pests?’ (It’s a community orchard and people will be using the fruit – it won’t be rotting on the ground) and ‘Will the trees shade the garden?’ (We only plant dwarf trees so they will not shade the garden, but we will be careful not to plant outside your house). Be positive and explain that the Community Orchard is theirs. Ask what varieties they would like. And then tell them about the free food.