It will be three years before the first apples are ready to be picked, but with 250 trees to start, Forgotten Harvest’s recent partnership with Blake’s Big Apple in Armada could produce more than 280,000 pounds of fresh fruit for Metro Detroit’s hungry over the next 25 years.
“There are 800,000 people in the tri-county area who face hunger or a lack of food daily,” said John Owens, Forgotten Harvest communications director. “Our goal is to get 1,000 trees out here, and we see no reason why that can’t happen. There’s a lot of community support.”
With Blake Farms donating the land and manpower, Forgotten Harvest’s Plant a Tree for Hunger program will start with 250 trees in the “Orchard of Hope,” with room to add 750 more through community sponsorships.
“There will always be a need to feed the hungry, this is just a start,” said Paul Blake, representative of Blake Farms. “There’s a need out there and what better way to celebrate Mother’s Day for a mom that has maybe passed away than to donate a tree that will produce fruit for 25 years.”
Be it purchased as a memorial, graduation gift, anniversary present or school adoption, all sponsorships will be recognized on a sign posted at the entrance to Blake’s Big Apple.
“They put bricks around stadiums … this is a little different,” Blake said. “This is the gift of life. (Sponsors) can come out here and see the trees and watch their tree grow.”
While Forgotten Harvest will rely on Blake’s expertise during the year, at harvest-time, Owens said he expects volunteer groups will lend a helping hand to pick the apples and ship them to the hungry in Metro Detroit.
“We want to get kids involved,” Owens said. “Few young people know how this works, where fruit comes from. We can fight hunger by making people aware of where food comes from. We fight two things: hunger and waste.”
Through its other partnerships, Forgotten Harvest is working to ensure that no farm surplus goes to waste.
“Farmers sometimes have to plow their surplus under,” Owens said. “That’s where Forgotten Harvest steps in. Everybody wins.”
Blake's will plant four varieties of apples in the Orchard of Hope–Red Delicious, Ida Red, McIntosh and Jonathan–and the first 250 trees are expected to produce around 11,250 pounds of fruit by 2015-16.
Community members can support the orchard and its mission by purchasing one of three tree sponsorships available through the Forgotten Harvest website:
- $1,000 Donation: Plant, maintain and harvest a tree for the life of the program or up to 25 years in the Forgotten Harvest Orchard of Hope
- $500 Donation: Plant, maintain and harvest a tree for a minimum of 10 years in the Forgotten Harvest Orchard of Hope
- $250 Donation: Plant a tree in the Forgotten Harvest Orchard of Hope