Updated 05/04/2010 07:18 PM
CHOW wins orchard in cyberspace with real world benefits
Building an orchard costs thousands of dollars and takes dozens of years, but for one local food bank, the whole process required just a few thousand clicks. Our Neil St. Clair explains the method and the impact behind CHOW's latest efforts to feed the hungry.
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CONKLIN, N.Y. -- Now filled with weeds and stumps, this plot of land could soon be producing fruit to help feed the area's hungry.
"This is a big boost to us. We're not going to have to worry about paying for the orchard," said Deacon Edward Blaine, director of CHOW, a local food bank run by the Broome County Council of Churches.
CHOW is the latest recipient of a 40-tree orchard, the winners of an online competition by the California-based Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF). And the roots of this orchard grew not in soil, but in the fertile grounds of cyberspace.
"Well, it was an online competition, being promoted through Facebook and Twitter. And we ended up with 95,000 votes," said Rev. Joe Sellepack, who heads the BC Council of Churches, which oversees CHOW.
That vote total put CHOW at the top of the heap, just ahead of Bloomington, Indiana's Parks and Rec Department.
This fall, the FTPF will come to town and help CHOW plant pear and apple trees on this land in Conklin.
"We're going to ask for volunteers and people who use our pantries if they can give us an hour of week to do maintenance, especially when it gets to harvest time," said Blaine.
The mature trees will produce fruit quickly, an added boost to CHOW's food donations, which have increased 50 percent since 2008.
"A few fruit trees can provide food for several households, so imagine the potential with a full orchard," said Robyn DuPre, an outreach coordinator with the FTPF, in a phone interview from her home in Washington State.
The goal of this new orchard is to give this vacant plot of land new purpose. One that could help feed thousands and ultimately save CHOW millions.
"If you figure the cost of fresh produce, we'll provide that. It'll come out of our own land and with help of volunteers, so no drain on our part," said Blaine.
Blaine says the certified-organic orchard will also add a needed nutritional balance to their outreach.
The flood-prone land is being leased from the Town of Conklin for just $10 a year.
The orchard is part of a larger plan to create a CHOW farm on the seven acres.