We’re Seeking Help This Season to Keep Our Orchard Fruitful

Nina Berryman, Weavers Way Farm Manager

In addition to our two beautiful vegetable farms, Weavers Way also operates a 1.5 acre fruit, nut and berry orchard on the campus of Saul High School in Roxborough, across the street from our Henry Got Crops fields. With the help of 200 students at Saul, we planted about 200 saplings in the fall of 2012 behind the school’s baseball diamond. We grow blackberries, cherries, Asian pears, plums, hazelnuts, kiwi berries, paw paws, raspberries and figs.

Why no apples? We are committed to organic practices, and apples (and many other common, popular fruits) are pest and disease-prone in this area. This makes it hard to grow big, blemish-free, “market worthy” apples that customers will buy. The selection of species and varieties in our orchard is tailored to those types that are more low maintenance and grow well in the hot, humid climate of southeastern Pennsylvania. In general, this is why finding organic, local fruit is so hard in this area. But it’s not impossible!

As we do with our vegetable fields, we take a holistic approach to orchard management. We follow organic growing practices, but we also pay attention to the whole ecosystem — in particular the soil and the relationship between the plants and the insect world.

Given the small quantities we yield, most of what we sell at harvest in the orchard is sold on site at our Henry Got Crops farm market. Occasionally we have enough product to share with our 200-plus person CSA, like we did with our hazelnuts last year.

But our orchard is far from the epitome of perfect management. Given the high demands of vegetable growing, which is our primary focus, time in the orchard often takes second priority to our five acres of fussy, finicky annual vegetables. So in an effort to get more helping hands involved, this year we are instituting monthly volunteer days on the first Saturday of every month from April through October (except for July), from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. You can sign up for shifts on the work calendar in the Member Center, and bring a friend! Everyone is welcome to chip in regardless of experience.