Egleston Community Orchard

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Join Us at: 195 Boylston St. Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

Egleston Community Orchard strengthens community resilience by engaging the diverse neighbors of Egleston Square through the practice of sustainable agriculture.

Egleston Community Orchard (ECO) is a neighbor-led effort for sustainable urban agriculture and community green space, promoting environmental justice and community ownership of land in Egleston Square. Starting with the parcel on 195 Boylston, ECO will work with neighbors and community based organizations to identify other nearby parcels suitable for food production, livestock, and bee keeping. ECO hopes to engage the full diversity of Egleston Square, including youth, and seeks to host cultural events and workshops open to the general public.

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Left: Painted bricks line the path of Egleston Community Orchard. Right: Dan Bensonhoff gives an afternoon tour of the orchard.

History

During the summer of 2010 community members living in the Egleston Square neighborhood came together to begin the process of converting a vacant city-owned lot at 195 Boylston Street into a garden space called the Egleston Community Orchard (ECO). With collaboration between members of neighborhood associations and passersby as well as local non-profits and businesses, the formerly trash-ridden lot became home to several apple trees, fruiting shrubs and perennials and was the host site for several sustainable agriculture workshops. These activities drew in dozens of community members who helped prepare the land for planting, constructed an on-site compost bin, created a flower bed, and developed rain water catchment system while bonding and learning about urban agriculture with their neighbors.

Development Process

This lot is one of 9 “JP Scattered Sites” in the Egleston Square neighborhood allocated for housing development. Initial conversations indicate that it is eligible for alternative uses if the community expresses this desire and demonstrates capacity to maintain and manage the space.

195 Boylston has a history common to urban lots. In 1884, a residence was built on the front half of the lot. After a fire, it has been vacant since 1984. The city took possession of the vacant parcel in 1990, and we hope will soon grant a license to ECO to operate it as a community garden space. The soil has been tested and contains “medium lead levels”, meaning that it is not considered safe for pregnant women or young children to work the land, nor is it safe to plant root vegetables or leafy greens directly in the soil. However, fruiting plants (which do not take up lead into their fruits) are considered safe. In addition, the use of urban gardening best practices such as wearing gloves, hand washing and planting edible crops in raised beds will minimize exposure to lead in the soil on site.

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Left: The community enjoys the annual Egleston Community Orchard Fall Fiesta. Right: Volunteers consider the placement of a new art work in the orchard.

Future Endeavors

– Permaculture Design (interdisciplinary earth science that involves conscious integrated design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems)

– Planting (remediation, native species, soil regeneration)

– Water Harvesting (rain barrels)

– Artistic Earth Construction Projects (cob workshop – benches, oven)

– Community/Cultural Events (music, films…)

– Youth Programs/Activities (food/environmental justice, job training, creative cooperation…)

-Expansion of Orchard to other public and private lots