PORTLAND, Oreg. (KOIN) — Community gardens are no longer stuck in just one place, thanks to a local non-profit’s project. The Portland Fruit Tree Project launched the ‘Mobile Orchard’ project in 2020.
“A mobile orchard is a portable garden plot that serves communities that wouldn’t otherwise have access to growing those types of products,” Portland Fruit Tree Project executive director Heather Keisler Fornes said. “The box is built out of a sustainable juniper and on top of a pallet so that we can pick it up and move it anytime.”
For more than a decade, the Portland Fruit Tree Project has held over 750 harvest events, founded five community orchards, and last year harvested 11-thousand pounds of fruit– now they’re going mobile.
Mobile orchards can be seen in public places like in front of homes, schools, and businesses. Each of the upcycled planter boxes can hold small trees and gardens and are accessible that way anyone can grow and harvest fruits and vegetables.
“The cool thing is that they’re owned by the communities that they’re in, so if you see this box and you want to plant some spinach, go for it. If you see fruit that’s ripe, please pick it,” Keisler Fornes said.
One in five Oregonians faces food insecurity, according to a report. The non-profit hopes their project will help increase access to fresh produce in low-income communities and help combat what’s known as ‘green gentrification.’
“Green gentrification is when you make an ecological improvement to something that then makes it harder for people living there to stay there…. every time you plant a tree in the ground, you increase housing values within 100 feet of the tree.–which is massive,” Keisler Fornes explained. “So mobile orchards provide us a lot of opportunity to not impact home values.”
Keisler Fornes says that’s because each mobile orchard is built on pallets and can be relocated to follow families if they move or if rent prices start to increase.
“We can just load it up… stick it on a trailer and haul it to its next location,” she added.
So far, there are four mobile orchards in Portland. The non-profit hopes to add more in the near future. To view a map of all locations and learn more about Portland Fruit Tree Project’s mobile orchards, click here.