by Madison Harasek, Volunteer Coordinator Intern
On Saturday, February 27th, City Fruit had our first volunteer event of 2021, and it could not have gone better! Five incredible City Fruit volunteers and their furry friends joined us for a day of pruning. We collaborated with Friends of Piper’s Orchard in Carkeek Park to prune one of the oldest orchards in Seattle. Piper’s Orchard was planted by the Piper family in the late 1800s and purchased by Seattle Parks in 1927. The land contains a variety of fruit trees, including apple, pear, and cherry. Paul Brookshire, from Friends of Piper’s, was kind enough to answer any questions our volunteers had whether it was about the land or pruning itself. He and Julian, City Fruit’s Fruit Tree Specialist, took a few beginning pruners under their wing to teach the basics of tree care. This included going over equipment safety, identifying which branches to cut, and the purpose of winter pruning.
Julian worked alongside a new volunteer, Victor, who traveled by bus all the way from Kent to volunteer with us! Victor moved to Washington earlier this year from the Congo and brought with him knowledge of sustainable agriculture practices and a passion for community building. Throughout the day we got to learn about his culture, favorite foods, and interests in agriculture.
Another interesting discussion was a story that Don Ricks, longtime steward of Piper’s, shared about the property’s Belmont apple tree. In the 1700s, a woman known as “Mama Beam” had an apple tree planted on her property. Her son later took grafts from this tree and planted them in orchards along the Ohio River. Around this time, Johnathan Chapman, more commonly known as Johnny Appleseed, also spread Belmont apple seeds during his trek across the Midwest. Unfortunately, a few years later, a pest wiped out most of the Belmont apple orchards.
A few years ago, descendants of Mama Beam discovered that there was a Belmont apple tree at Piper’s orchard. The descendants reached out to Will Murray from Piper’s orchard and asked if a few grafts could be shipped out to Missouri. Since then, Will has also collected 6 grafts that were just planted at High Point in West Seattle, where City Fruit just built our first public orchard.
By the end of the event, our volunteers pruned just over a dozen trees. The day was filled with sunshine, laughter, and community building. If you are looking to attend similar events, City Fruit has a variety of opportunities!
- On March 27th we will be pruning at Holy Cross in Bellevue. The orchard is 3 acres with more than 40 fruit trees, including plum, apple, and pear. Sign up now through our TimeCounts page (https://timecounts.org/city-fruit).
- On April 22nd, our orchard dedication at High Point in West Seattle will be virtual. We’ve partnered with Neighborhood House, Seattle Housing Authority, and Open Space Association of High Point to build a new orchard of 16 fruit trees for the 2,300 residents of High Point. Our Earth Day event will need volunteers to help with signage and future care of the trees.