Bloomington gets little fruitier with new community orchard


A tree stands near a flag in the middle of the Bloomington Community Orchard near Winslow Woods Park. The new orchard, made of 60 peach, apple and plum trees, was planted through a grant from Edy's Fruit Bars and the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. Alex Farris Buy Photos

Now residents can have all the apples they want in Bloomington’s new community orchard.

On Saturday, over 100 volunteers gathered to plant 60 fruit trees in the Bloomington Community Orchard. The orchard is located on South Highland Avenue, across the street from the Monroe County YMCA.

The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation and Edy’s Fruit Bars awarded Bloomington with the 60 fruit trees and provided a professional arborist to help plant the trees.
The orchard will supply free apples, pears, cherries, persimmons, blueberries, blackberries and gooseberries to anyone who stops in and picks a free snack from a tree.

The fruit trees will start blossoming next spring and will be ready for picking next fall, Rico Montenegro, Fruit Tree Planting Foundation arborist said.

“You’re going to get several tons of fruit from this orchard,” Montenegro said.
Any unpicked fruit at the end of the season will be collected by Hoosier Hills Food Bank.

The orchard aims to encourage healthy eating, provide nutritional education and build community relationships.

In order to win the grant that helped provide the fruit trees and the arborist, the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department had to receive enough votes to place fifth out of the 25 competing orchard sites across the country.

“We want to plant orchards in communities that are passionate about it,” Edy’s spokeswoman Melanie Fitzgerald said, explaining why Edy’s used a voting system to award grants.

For the fruit orchard to become a success, Bloomington had to come together.
“This really started with the community,” City of Bloomington Urban Forester Lee Huss said. “We’ve seen other communities where they’ve planted fruit trees and then had to remove them because no one took care of them.”

Bloomington won the grant because of vast community support, Bloomington Community Orchard Treasurer Amy Countryman said.

“It was one of those things where we got the ball rolling, and it took off on its own,” Countryman said. 

Bloomington brought more than a united community to the table, Montenegro said.
“I haven’t seen an organization so put together,” Montenegro said. “What’s unique about this community is that you have a lot of highly skilled individuals.”

Both IU students and  local residents volunteered in the orchard on hot summer weekends to make compost and deer fencing.

Junior Jaclyn Tolliver volunteered with her Community Nutrition
class Saturday morning.

“It’s about working with the community,” Tolliver said. “It’s a bonus that it’s something healthy.”

Amanda Wanlass, Bloomington Community Orchard Secretary, thought the project was a great idea, even though she said she knew nothing about fruit trees.
As she spoke, her two toddlers helped shovel dirt to fill in a hole where a new apple tree had just been planted.

She said she brought her kids to help so they will feel the orchard is special to them.
“Every time we come here, they’ll get to have their tree,” Wanlass said. “It will make it more meaningful.”

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