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Bringing Urban Orchards to Food Deserts in Ohio

The Common Orchard Project has planted ten orchards in vacant lots in Cincinnati. The organization hopes to plant 100 urban orchards by the end of the decade.
September 22, 2020, 10am PDT | Lee Flannery | @leecflannery
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Ripe Organic Cultivar Pears
Swetlana Wall

"Vacant lots are a blight to communities across the country, and Cincinnati is no different. According to an inter-departmental study on vacant land and health in Philadelphia, blighted plots affect residents’ well-being, physical health, and mental health," warns The Common Orchard Project, an organization replacing vacant lots with fruit-bearing trees.

WVXU reporter Ann Thompson caught up with the project's founder and permaculturist, Chris Smyth, at the first orchard at Schiff Ave and Glenway Ave in West Price Hill. Smyth says the organization plans to plant 100 orchards in the next decade.

"It's easy to drive by the intersection of Glenway and Schiff avenues and not realize this green space is actually a 'food forest' that is helping feed people who live in the neighborhood," Thompson writes. 

Once home to two unused, crumbling buildings, the lot now supports "apple, cherry, pear, pecan and plum trees" as well as medicinal plants and other vegetation that promote healthy trees by fending off pests and providing nutrient-rich soil.

So far, Smyth's team has planted 10 orchards in Cincinnati. "Smyth sees Common Orchards as a way to bridge the gap between vacant property and eventual development," says Thompson. The Common Orchard Project team hopes to promote the project and see orchards across Ohio.

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Published on Monday, September 14, 2020 in WVXU
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