‘Make Fruits Available to All’ program, addressing food security on the Eastern Shore
FRUITLAND, Md. – The program called “Make Fruits Available to All” is teaching college students and and community members young and old to grow and care for an orchard.
University of Maryland Eastern Shore Extension’s Well Connected Communities along with Horticulture and Fruits programs celebrated their first harvest since 2017. We’re told The Fruitland mini orchard helps the community to essentially help themselves. They say they want to transform the grassland, to a ‘fruit land.’ “We have to do our best to help the population, help the community to get access to food,” says Dr. Virginie Zoumenou, the Nutrition and Health Programs Director at the UMES Extension.
A project three years in the making, is now ready for harvest. This is part of the efforts to address the food security problem here on the eastern shore. “The best thing is this is the outcome of our community, we just planted the trees, we guided them but the students have been taking care of the trees for the past three years,” says Dr. Naveen Kumar Dixit, the Assistant Professor of Horticulture and Extension Specialist at UMES.
In a partnership with the city of Fruitland and volunteers, an Orchard has bloomed right at the park for all to take care of and enjoy. “We have to do everything we can to help people to know, not only that knowledge is not enough, but they need to come next to the fruit and the food and then know how to stay healthy,” says Dr. Zoumenou.
According to a Maryland food system census, 14% of the population in Wicomico county experiences food insecurity, and 31% of the population faces poverty. Organizers tell us, this initiative plans to turn things around, and bring agriculture back to the town of Fruitland, and the county. “We get to interact and talk about what we’re doing and I try to encourage them to jump board and be one of the volunteers,” says Linda Powell, the Administrative Assistant for the town of Fruitland. She adds, “They love the fact that now that we have the fruits actually growing on the trees they’re kind of anxious, they ask when can we get some!”
We’re also told, students and volunteers prune all the trees and continuously take care of the orchard year round. They say this project seems like a new start for the community. “That’s the goal of this project, to learn and grow and teach others,” says Dr. Kumar Dixit. Powell adds, “Sustainability, if you can’t buy it, grow it.”
Organization leaders also tell 47 ABC, local agencies such as city officials and firefighters are all working together on this project. They say they want this to be a start to a flourishing and healthy community.
We’re told, the orchard is expected to yield almost 5,000 pounds of fruit if taken care of properly. They say they hope to continue these types of projects throughout the community and the county. So maybe others will have the knowledge to grow their own gardens and orchards too.
For more information on the project and other ways you can help, just visit their website.