Core Orchards Detroit, a division of Wolverine Human Services (WHS), today announced that it will begin planting 350 Honeycrisp apple trees to create a demonstration orchard on the city’s east side. The trees will grow in a high-tech, high density growing system located on land at Lenox and Charlevoix St.
Once the trees are established and yielding fruit, Core Orchards will become a U-Pick orchard open to the Riverbend and neighboring communities. WHS will also construct a 2,100 square-foot “hoop house” on the same land will allow for nearly year-round gardening, with community gardening memberships available to area residents.
“According to a University of Illinois study, crime decreases in neighborhoods when the amount green space increases, and vegetation helps alleviate mental fatigue, one of the precursors to violent behavior,” says Matt Wollack, WHS vice president of strategic development. “This demonstration orchard is the first step in what we hope will become something much larger.”
Core Orchards has hired former University of Michigan running back Vincent Smith, and Sonya Sutherland, co-founders of Team Gardens to serve as co-managers of the orchard. Team Gardens’ mission is to increase access to healthy foods, and reduce juvenile crime and violent behaviors through a gardening-based intervention. The Team Gardens team will manage the hoop house and provide garden training to interested neighbors. Isaiah Wunsch, of Traverse City-based Wunsch Farms and sixth generation apple grower has also joined Core Orchards as the chief agricultural officer. He will oversee all agricultural operations of the orchard with the Core Orchards staff.
“We have been working close with the residents of the Riverbend neighborhood and the city of Detroit, to create space that will benefit everyone,” says Greg Hoffman, WHS director of community relations. “After hearing concerns from our neighbors about the size and scope of WHS’ original 11-acre orchard proposal, we have decided to reduce the footprint of the urban orchard to less than a half-acre of land that WHS acquired through the Land Bank Authority Community Partners program. Our hope is this demonstration orchard will help alleviate any concerns and highlight the benefits of transforming this blighted, unused space into a community gathering destination.”
Founded on Detroit’s east side in 1987, Wolverine Human Services is the largest foster care, adoption, and independent living agency, servicing youth and families in all 83 counties in Michigan.