May 11, 2016, Camden, NJ – The rain on Saturday May 7th did not stop 22 community and backyard gardeners from picking up 60 fruit trees from the NJ Tree Foundation. Pear, apple, plum, and apricot trees were disbursed to be planted throughout Camden as part of a grant the NJ Tree Foundation received from the Campbell Soup Foundation.
“Camden residents have limited options to obtain affordable, fresh produce within city limits. This project is creating new food access points for residents while empowering them to grow their own food,” said Jessica Franzini, Senior Program Director for the NJ Tree Foundation. Franzini led the giveaway on Saturday. She taught gardeners about fruit tree planting and care and provided tools, mulch, and educational materials to each garden so they could properly care for their trees. Franzini noted, “I will keep in touch with the gardeners over the summer and we will have a Harvest Party in the fall to share lessons from the season. Some gardeners have never grown fruit before. We want them to have a positive experience.”
The event was held at the Vietnamese Community Garden in East Camden, which received six fruit trees. Lan Dinh of VietLead, who works in the garden, explained, “This is an intergenerational and multiracial garden of Vietnamese elders and youth of various backgrounds and ethnicities. Our new fruit trees, which include Asian pears, apples, and apricots, will offer diversity to our garden and help feed the families who rely on this garden for fresh food.”
Most gardens received one to three fruit trees. The Yorkship School obtained the most, with 15 teachers taking 10 fruit trees for their school garden. The teachers planted the trees in the afternoon after picking them up in the morning with help from Pacesetters of South Jersey. Students will care for the trees and enjoy the fruit. The Yorkship School is registered with Sustainable Jersey for Schools and two of their teachers completed free NJ Tree Foundation tree care workshops to become Certified TreeKeepers.
Pastor Odessa Edmond, of the Whitman Park neighborhood, picked up two fruit trees. “Our church waited two years for our fruit trees. The families at our church will benefit from this harvest for years to come,” the Pastor explained.
In total, 22 community and backyard gardens benefited from the project in neighborhoods such as East Camden, Cramer Hill, North Camden, Lanning Square, Morgan Village, Whitman Park, and Cooper Grant. All fruit trees were gone by early afternoon but that did not stop more Camden residents from coming to see how they could get a fruit tree.
Franzini mentioned, “The NJ Tree Foundation had a waiting list for fruit trees before this event and now we have another one. We hope to hold an event like this next spring, as it was such a success.”
All tree species provided are semi-dwarfing, self-pollinating trees from HopeWell Nursery in Bridgeton. The NJ Tree Foundation and nursery staff worked together to pick species that will survive well in urban environments. The NJ Tree Foundation thanks the Campbell Soup Foundation for their support which made this event possible.