The Sharing Farm Orchard Team in 2012 including (left to right) orchard manager Kimi Hendress, Pomologist and sustainable agriculture expert Kent Mullinix, and Anna Rallings

The Sharing Farm Orchard Team in 2012 including, from left, orchard manager Kimi Hendress, pomologist and sustainable agriculture expert Kent Mullinix, and Anna Rallings.

Richmond, British Columbia. When I first pondered the idea of planting a community orchard in Toronto, I did a lot of research to find out about community orchards in Canada – I learned of a few initiatives. One of the most exciting and ambitious was The Sharing Farm in Richmond, B.C.

In 2010 I went to British Columbia to meet Mary Gazetas, one of the founders of the project, and she showed me around their beautiful young orchard. I was inspired by the way they turned the orchard into a learning centre where locals could learn how to grow fruit trees organically.

At the time, there was nothing like this available here in Toronto. So, when I returned, I worked to bring in experts to teach us in Ben Nobleman Park Community Orchard. What I discovered from visiting The Sharing Farm is that the more you learn, the better you can care for your trees. The result is healthier trees and a better harvest.

I was so sad to hear that Mary passed away in 2012. Staff and volunteers at the Sharing Farm miss her a lot. In recent years, I’ve been in touch with Kent Mullinax, Ph.D, a pomologist and sustainable agriculture specialist who teaches in The Sharing Farm’s orchard, and Kimi Hendress, former Sharing Farm Orchard Manager.

I love Kimi’s advice when it comes to starting an orchard, whether it’s in your garden or in your local park. “Start small,” she says. “That might mean 25 trees, 10 trees, or it might mean three trees depending on who you are and what space you have. But don’t be afraid to start. Over a three to five year period, you will know if you have the resources to expand.”

If you’re thinking of planting fruit trees in your yard or public space, be sure to sign up for my “Researching, Sourcing and Buying Your Fruit Tree Workshop”.

Are you part of The Sharing Farm orchard? What are the lessons you’ve learned from your fruit trees? What are your favourite varieties? I’d love to hear from you!