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Core Orchards plants 300 apple trees on Detroit’s east side

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Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

In 2020, Detroiters will be able to stop by an orchard on the east side to pick Honeycrisp apples. It’s a plan that’s been in the works for years, led by Wolverine Human Services (WHS). This past Friday, WHS, along with over 100 volunteers from Paragon Properties, started planting Core Orchards.

The demonstration orchard is located at 2610 Lenox, across from Wolverine Human Services’ offices. According to WHS, the demonstration orchard is a “high-tech, high-density growing system for an urban environment.”

In the time it took between planning and planting, WHS had to work with a new 2016 Urban Agriculture ordinance in the city. WHS vice president of strategic development Matt Wollack tells us, “There are new understandings of how we should be doing urban agriculture. There needs to be considerations for the community as well as the safety and the environment.”

Volunteers work in the hoop house.
Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

The organic trees that were planted on Friday are already been growing, or in hibernation as Wollack says. They’ll go right into full budding and full apple production is expected in 2020. The 300 trees can produce anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 pounds of Honeycrisp apples.

WHS is currently planting on a half acre of land but they want the orchard to grow to ten acres. Some blighted vacant homes will need to be removed first. Their goal is to plant up to 4,000 trees, along with other gardens, and truly become the “core” of the neighborhood.

“A 2017 Michigan State University study found that maintaining yards of vacant properties results in a reduction in crime,” says Wollack. “Some earlier studies have shown that greening and gardening programs also are linked to less stress, depression, and hopelessness for residents, as well as lower crime rates. The creation of the orchard is part of WHS’ strategic plan to reach out and engage with the communities where we have a presence and to help revitalize once thriving neighborhoods.”