A Preliminary Overview of Community Orcharding in the United States

  • Megan Betz Indiana University–Bloomington
  • Jacob Mills Indiana University–Bloomington
  • James Farmer Indiana University–Bloomington
Keywords: Urban Agriculture, Local Food, Community Orchards, Community Development


Community orchards are a type of urban agricul­ture project bringing fruit- and nut-bearing trees and shrubs to neighborhoods across the U.S. While urban agriculture is receiving substantial attention in food studies literature, community orchards are still largely absent from academic conversations. We conducted a qualitative, inductive survey of community orchard organizations in the U.S. to establish a baseline understanding. This survey was addressed to orchard organizers and focused on two questions. First, what is driving the rise of community orcharding projects in the U.S.? Second, how are the organizations affecting local food systems? Organizations were selected to be recipients of our survey, which garnered a 42.64% response rate, if they had an Internet presence and active e-mail account; identification of survey participants was Internet-based, and as a result, little is known about orchards that do not have an Internet presence. Findings showed that commu­nity orchards are primarily established on public land, often facilitated by municipal parks and recreation departments, and range in size from pocket orchards of just a few trees to multiple acres of diverse planting. Primary motivations for beginning community orchards include concern for the environment, education, and a sense of com­munity. A preliminary understanding of this impact lies at the nexus of these final two motivations. Community orchard organizers predominately reported fruit and nuts produced in the orchard would feed residents in the geographic area immediately surrounding the site. This arrangement of public fruit and nut production and volunteer orchard manage­ment is leading to a novel form of community development that merits further research.


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Author Biographies

Megan Betz, Indiana University–Bloomington
Department of Geography; Student Building 120; Indiana University–Bloomington; Bloomington, Indiana 47405
Jacob Mills, Indiana University–Bloomington
School of Public Health 133; Indiana University–Bloomington; Bloomington, Indiana 47405
James Farmer, Indiana University–Bloomington
Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies, School of Public Health 133; Indiana University–Bloomington; Bloomington, Indiana 47405
How to Cite
Betz, M., Mills, J., & Farmer, J. (2017). A Preliminary Overview of Community Orcharding in the United States. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 7(2), 13-28. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2017.072.002