Transmute for Fruit
Recently, the Evolver network joined forces with our local newspaper, our city government, our university community, and many dedicated local volunteers, friends, and family members here in Bloomington, Indiana. These unlikely co-conspirators may not have known about each others' efforts at the time, but the Bloomington Community Orchard did win an essential online grant from Tom's of Maine for 20k!
Bloomington, Indiana thanks you from all of our hearts.
Here's the story, so far. At the first public announcement of the Bloomington Community Orchard concept last March, over 120 people showed up in City Council Chambers. This meeting came about because Amy Countryman, a student at the School for Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, shared her recent thesis on food security with our urban forester a few months earlier. Our forester liked the proposed idea of an all volunteer food forest with an all free harvest, so he spoke with The City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department. Shortly thereafter, Amy got a phone call. The City wanted to donate a patch of land and 2k dollars in seed money to help this idea along.
Amy held a public meeting in March to share this news. Amongst the community of folks that showed up to find out what the heck was going on there were many experts from various fields. Given the green light to brainstorm freely together on a real-world proposal, an organic process arose from the excitement.
After a few weeks of deliberation, what we were all seeing was not like anything we had seen before. We had grant writers, designers, operations experts, permaculture experts, communicators, by-laws experts, artists, city support, community support, some undefinable others, and broad expertise in a plethora of random details. The group formed a tentative structure: Administration, finance, operations, communications.
Ops subdivided into cultivators, soil, design, coordination of volunteers, and other minutia. Admin wrote by-laws for an election to a board of directors and exited the stage. Finance proposed our first grant to the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation in a matter of days (which we also won via online vote), and Comms gathered contacts, set up email lists, and opened up space that filled itself with a deliciously talented web team.
After winning the first grant from the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (sponsored by Edy's Fruit Bars) we were all stoked. The design that came out of deliberation between so many local experts was permaculturally polycultural, disease resistant, locally biased, and attractively circular in shape. It featured genius in both history and hardiness. None of the participants had ever seen anything like it before.
Then, everyone realized there was not enough money. So the finance team reconvened and found another online voting grant campaign via Tom's of Maine.
Meanwhile, early on in that voting process, members of Evolver Bloomington attended the first Evolver Regional Coordinator's Conference at the Heartland Retreat Center in mid-state New York. During visioning talks, Bloomington Evolvers spoke of this phenomenon and it seemed to strike a chord.
Evolver Regional Coordinators subsequently shared our online voting link across the network. I also wrote an Evolver.net blog about the magic of working at the Orchard. We won the Tom's of Maine grant just the other day with over 100k votes! Bloomington has a population of 70k, and I highly doubt that they *all* voted daily for this online campaign. I also doubt that all of Bloomington is even aware of this little free project yet.
Here's a writeup in our local newspaper with additional details about the grant and our Orchard, and a link to a PDF of the orchard plan.
Planting day is October 9th and the FTPF is bringing us over 60 trees and berry shrubs, way up from the original 25 as promised! We only have to get the ADA accessible pathways in place and all the holes dug and the fence posts raised and everyone on the same page between now and then. I recently changed my Evolver icon to a honeybee (which landed on my porch the other day), to best represent how busy we are with all this free stuff lately. The IU students that have been attending the workdays, as part of IU's sustainability "themester", have us all caught up with our work to date. The amount of compost ingredients our community has coordinated to deliver is overwhelming, but still under control. Now, the question is becoming time. Can we get it all done in time?
I'd like to thank the Evolver network from the bottom of my heart, for helping us build a place where apples, cherries, persimmons, pawpaws, grapes, blueberries, Asian pears, peaches, strawberries, kiwis, red raspberries, goose berries, Japanese plums, chestnuts, red mulberries, service berries, elderberries, quince, figs, goji berries, roses, hazelnuts, and more can grow.
Not to mention "free for the pickin's!" with a little help from our municipality.
I hope the network eats up this story of transmutation into fruit. I hope we all eat free soon. I'd love to merely click a simple button that you may nourish yourselves for whatever may come next. So get busy y'all! It's that one little idea you have... It's positive, it's wide open, and it's free. Perhaps you have even been keeping it a secret!