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Volunteers needed to help orchard plan bear fruit

CROP is working to bring orchards to the city
CROP is working to bring orchards to the city
Photo courtesy of CROP

The Chicago Rarities Orchard Project (CROP) needs volunteers to blanket the Logan Square neighborhood with fliers this Sat., April 16, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Logan Boulevard, and meet up afterward at New Wave Coffee, 2557 North Milwaukee Avenue / 3103 W Logan Boulevard. Check out CROP's website and Facebook page LIKE, find out more about them, and to RSVP.

"CROP is trying to preserve rare varieties in a community garden setting", says Board Member Megan Larmer.

Those who participate in getting the word out will have a nice tour of the area where a fruit orchard is planned by the grass-roots non-profit organization, and a chance to get to know them. The flier distribution will alert people to the group's second large format public meeting, upcoming Wednesday, April 27 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Logan Square Auditorium, at which CROP and architects from Altamanu architectural firm and the City of Chicago’s Department of Zoning and Land Use will present the proposal of the Logan Square Plaza and Orchard.

“We hope to have as many people show up this time to give support and feedback, as we did at our Community Input Meeting last August,” said Larmer. “We’ve had smaller breakout sessions since then, to evaluate the architects’ and the City’s plan.

“Volunteers on April 16 will make sure those who haven’t heard about it are informed. We’ll stroll the neighborhood, talk to people or just put fliers in the their mailboxes; whatever they are comfortable with. Some people in the neighborhood don’t have the internet or get out to talk with people, to hear about it,” Larmer said.

CROP has procured fruit tree grafts from a network of suppliers including Seed Savers Exchange and Midwest Fruit Explorers. It plans to distribute the fruit it grows to the community through different venues.

“We’ll invite people to the orchard to taste and compare, host educational programs onsite, and hopefully in schools, to distribute the fruit manually to raise funds, and keep the program alive and well. We also hope to be able to supply local restaurants to raise awareness,” Larmer said.

CROP was the idea of board member Dave Snyder. Snyder directs the rooftop farm atop restaurant Uncommon Ground's 1401 W. Devon location in Chicago. It is a Certified Organic Rooftop Farm (through Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA) 2008). The restaurant and its owners, the Camerons, have partnered with CROP, and invented the Agripolitan cocktail, the sales of which help benefit the non-profit.

CROP's board is comprised of less than 10 gardeners, cooks, artists, educators, a botanist, who incorporated as a non-profit in 2009. Larmer said they accept help from people who approach them with ideas or a willingness to help.

“We try to utilize everyone. There is not as much other volunteering until we have the land. We have no office. We’re a grass-roots group,” said Larmer. “All but one board member lives in Logan Square, an unintended coincidence.”

Larmer said they had been looking for orchard sites on the west side and near south side and had looked at 60 lots before landing on Logan Square.

“Logan Square is really a healthy and active community that’s into food security and biodiversity," Larmer pointed out.

Larmer explained that while biodiversity and ecosystems are at risk in the world, instead giant monocultures exist.

"Monocultures are strains that don’t have a high nutritional value or offer cultural links. We live in a more adaptive climate, with a wide variety of general resources to draw on. There’s no reason not to, and it’s a good metaphor for the community as well," she said.


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