By Frank and Kay Whatley
Dedication of Rocky Mount’s Community Orchard took place on August 15, 2012. Apple trees stand tall in the field, expected to provide fruit when they mature in a few years. More tree planting is planned, with a goal to provide a healthy food source for residents.
The orchard is located just outside Downtown Rocky Mount on East Duke Circle Drive. Mayor David Combs and Rocky Mount City Council hosted the dedication. City Council Member Chris Carroll Miller was present, and she is the one who brought the orchard to this piece of city-owned land.
While not undertaken as an official Council project, the initial idea spurned action by Mrs. Miller, with help from the local Sierra Club and other community members. Since the city already had several community gardens, it seemed a logical step for a City interested in sustainability.
Bringing the plan to fruition did not happen quickly. In the Fall of 2011, an acquaintance mentioned to Mrs. Miller that he was going to purchase trees for a community orchard in another state. He invited her to come tour the orchard. From their initial conversations came the idea of a Rocky Mount Community Orchard.
Land close to downtown was available; a piece of land purchased following Hurricane Floyd. The city had been wanting to put this parkland to productive use. It was decided that it might serve well as an orchard location.
With the first of the trees now planted and growing, the aesthetics of the land are already improved, and a food source will add to the land even more. As the trees grow, this orchard may provide a calm, pleasant environment for residents to play, students to study, and families to harvest. Johnny Appleseed would be proud!
Mrs. Miller advocates healthy food sources for local residents, and is an advocate of the orchard as well as local community gardens. She shared that she believes in better health and sustainable living for the city of Rocky Mount.
The Community Orchard is being maintained as a part of Rocky Mount’s Parks program. It is hoped the orchard may be maintained organically. Volunteer days coming up in the next year will include pruning and cleaning.
Mrs. Miller envisions the land planted further, perhaps with some bushes and certainly with more diversified types of fruit trees, including pears that will grow well in NC.
The trees in the ground now have been donated in honor of family members. For residents interested in donating to the Community Orchard and having new trees planted in honor of their own loved ones, contact City Council Member Chris Carroll Miller directly via email.