Volunteers begin transforming vacant lot into urban orchard
What was once home to trash, broken-down vehicles and feral animals and a place for cars to turn around on a dead end street, is now a fruit garden.
The Anthony Street Orchard features two pear trees, a persimmon tree and fig tree, all of which should be producing fruit within a year.
There are eight blackberry bushes.
Soon, there will be wide planters filled with perennial herbs.
It is something from which the entire Bibb City community will benefit.
“There will be just three rules,” Brad Barnes said.
Those rules: only take the fruit you need; do not sell anything you take; leave something for the next person.
Though it is on Anthony Street, it can be seen from Second Avenue.
It’s between two buildings.
The orchard is the brainchild of Bibb City residents Barnes and his wife Jenn Collins, who have already renovated two houses in the area.
The two say they have passions for creatively using tiny spaces and farming them and feeding people and making things pretty.
Barnes is in marketing with AOC Solutions, and Collins is an environmental scientist.
The plot of land, estimated by Barnes to be around 50 feet by 60 feet, used to have a house on it but has been deserted for awhile.
“We had been looking at the property for quite some time wondering what could be done with it,” Barnes said.
Barnes and Collins had been attending local meetings of Georgia Organics’ Food Oasis, which is addressing the community’s “food deserts,” which are urban areas without easy access to healthy, fresh food.
“A lot of people can’t get healthy food,” Collins said.
The two did get a $1,500 grant from the organization for the project.
The couple was not sure what the owner of the land would think, but when presented with the idea John Barwick gave the land to the Columbus land bank, and attorney Ken Henson donated his work on closing costs.
Members of the Bibb City community and Trees Columbus came together Jan. 14 to put the orchard together.
Trees Columbus provided the trees, and Lazy K Nursery in the Pine Mountain the blackberries.
Barnes said the land was hard clay, “like concrete.”
Columbus Water Works tilled it for free.
A former Georgia Power worker Jody Foster trimmed tree limbs hanging over the area.
“People in the community are excited about this, and we hope this will spur more activity,” Collins said. “We would liked see orchards like this around the city.”
She long has had an interest in feeding the needy.
“My Mom grew up in the wake of the Great Depression, and she once told me that she knew she’d be rich if she could ever walk into a grocery store and buy whatever she wanted. That made a huge impression on me. It became my standard of wealth, too, and made me want to fight hunger any way I can,” Collins said.
The plants at the orchard are drought-tolerant plants, so Barnes said there will not be much upkeep.
This could be just the beginning at the orchard.
“Eventually, if things shape up nicely, we may make a push for a second phase of improvements to add a big sign along that busy street, a gravel path through the park, some sod, and a park bench or two,” Barnes said.