In 2010, certified master gardener Reggie Singleton traveled to the West African country of Ghana, where he saw people eating from the abundant fruit trees throughout the community, including kumquat, orange, banana and pineapple trees.
“I saw the variety of fruits that people had access to and can consume fresh right off the tree with no carbon footprint, the value of people being able to eat clean, fresh seasonal local food,” he says.
As a Health Policy Coordinator with the Mecklenburg County Health Department, Reggie was inspired to bring the concept back to Charlotte.
Last year, the health department partnered with TreesCharlotte to plant a fruit orchard at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, and on Saturday, Nov. 18, the groups partnered again to plant about 30 trees at Rockwell AME Zion Church in the Derita community.
Derita is a designated food priority area in Charlotte for its lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables, which results in increased food-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
The Derita urban orchard includes trees that adapt well to the Piedmont region, such as peaches, figs, persimmons, grapes, blueberries and apples. It’s adjacent to an existing community garden, providing an abundance of vegetables.
The partners established a plan for caring for the trees as well as distributing the fruit free of charge to community members. Reggie estimates that each urban orchard serves about 10,000 people with increased access to fresh produce.
He says the project is a win-win for everybody. “We address food insecurity issues as well as tree canopy concerns for TreesCharlotte and the great city of Charlotte. There are so many benefits of trees – oxygen, comfort, cooling – in addition to food. These are important particularly during these uncertain times for many in our community.”
TreesCharlotte will continue to partner with the health department to establish fruit orchards in underserved areas throughout Charlotte.