When you come to the Harvest for Real Life Fruit Orchard in the winter time, you are met with a serene and peaceful landscape of beautiful trees, vines and bushes. But during the spring and summer months, the landscape is colored by buzzing volunteers growing, nurturing and harvesting 11 different types of fruits. Lester Bray, a local Master Gardener, helped us get started, and experts from all over the state provided guidance and expertise: Pearson Peach Farms, Ison’s Nursery, Mercier Orchards, Master Gardeners, to name a few! The Orchard became a reality in 2011 with the planting of 135 blackberry vines, 300 blueberry bushes, 35 grape vines, 54 peach trees, 150 semi-dwarf apple trees, 12 pomegranate bushes, 7 plum trees, 7 fig trees, 4 pear trees and 3 persimmon trees. Hummingbird feeders were added to the orchard as a means for insect control. “The Orchard may have survived without Mr. Bray, but would not have thrived without his involvement“, shared Jeff Meyers. Over 80 volunteers care for the Orchard. All volunteers are asked to pick a team, such as the blackberry team, so they can become experts in that one particular fruit.
In 2015 we added the Real Life Vegetable Garden next to the Fruit Orchard on the campus of Dogwood Church in Tyrone, GA. The project commenced with a summer garden. A team of green-fingered volunteers planted a variety of healthy vegetables: 400 tomato plants, corn, watermelons, cantaloupes, bell peppers, yellow squash, zucchini and jalapeno peppers. Later that fall, a winter garden was added to extend the production season to include collards, turnips, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, radishes and kale for the holiday tables of our families. Today, the garden is 17,400 square feet.
The sole purpose of the Fruit Orchard and Vegetable Garden is to provide fresh produce to the families of the Real Life Center, and it is distributed weekly through the Bread and Vegetables Room. Since nutrition is hard to come by on a limited budget, the Orchard and Garden have been huge blessings!
At the Real Life Center it is our hope to have an impact on our local community and beyond. To multiply our impact on the community, we created a Garden Tractor Team which consists of a group of volunteers who are responsible for preparing soil for future garden projects. “This effort involves consulting on best soil areas and crop selection, plowing the soil, disc harrowing, tilling the soil and laying the raised-bed plastic covers which are excellent for growing vegetables,” shares Kevin Welch, one of our key garden partners. Once completed, it is up to the new garden owners to plant, raise and harvest their produce.
For information about volunteering or U-Pick visit Orchard.