WVSU Extension Service can help to develop and implement urban orchards throughout southern West Virginia. These areas could be of varying sizes, but the projects could accommodate anything. The orchards would be comprised of any combination of: apple, pear, peach, cherry, nectarine, or plum trees. WVSU Extension Service would be willing to host educational, hands-on workshops in these orchards to focus on fruit tree maintenance, pruning, etc. to assist the city/town in the general maintenance of these trees, and any fruit that is grown would be available for use however the overseeing group sees fit.
Fruit trees and basic planting/maintenance materials (pruning tools, harvesting tools, etc.) would be provided through grant funding, with the agreement that people in the towns (or WVSU CED Agents) can provide growth and production information (at least a basic idea) back to WVSU Extension Service for extrapolation to determine production potentials in urban settings. Also, a small fruit sample would be requested for food quality testing to ensure that the fruit is of safe quality for human consumption.
These projects certainly require community buy-in. It is the hope of WVSU Extension Service that these orchards work almost like community gardens where Extension assists with the start-up of the proposal and then focuses on education of orchard management over the course of 3-4 years then the community truly takes over to operate and “manage” the orchard going forward with Extension available for technical assistance on insect/disease management, continued pruning education, etc.
Specifically focusing on the trees, we would source the trees from either Adams County Nursery in Pennsylvania or Stark Brothers Nursery in Missouri. The trees would be dwarf or semi-dwarf in size to keep the trees small and manageable without the use of equipment and bucket trucks. If planting in 2016, the trees likely wouldn’t bear fruit until at least 2019. This will allow the trees to grow large and strong enough to support the weight of the fruit that will be produced on the trees rather than snapping off due to this weight. The dwarf trees would be spaced with at least 10’ between each tree while the semi-dwarf trees would be spaced at 15-18’ between trees (i.e. for every 100 square feet there would be approximately 4 dwarf trees or about 2 semi-dwarf trees).
Extension Agent Brad Cochran with WVSU Extension Service is happy to come to southern West Virginia to scope out sites and discuss options at any time. He would be the point of contact for any urban orchard project with WVSU. This is only a small overview of the project and what would happen, but it certainly covers the basics and should provide enough information to determine if this project should move forward from concept to planning for a planting.
Luckily for the New River Gorge region, Hinton is giving this project a shot! With a planned 40 trees, citizens will be able to enjoy apple, peach, pear, plum, nectarine, apricot, cherry, and pecan trees in a few years. The treas will be spaced about 10 feet apart and cover the front of the property along the Greenbrier property that was deeded to the county in 2000. In 1996, a flood destroyed the residence there and FEMA granted the property to the county. It can only be used for public use and can’t be sold, so they’re making the most of it.