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Food pantry proposes community orchard in city

As president of the Bread of Life Food Pantry board of directors, Kelly Norris has a goal to increase patrons’ access to fresh produce. When the coronavirus interrupted supply chains last spring, Norris started talking through solutions with her husband and she hit on the idea of a community orchard. 

“It is a starting point for providing a supplemental food source for the community,” said Norris, adding that in a few years — if the trees produce an abundant harvest — a volunteer team could collect fruit for the pantry.

In a presentation to the Buffalo City Council on Jan. 19, Norris proposed that the Bread of Life Food Pantry establish a community orchard in a city green space on the corner of West Fetterman Street and North DeSmet Avenue. Norris said the plans call for six each of apple, pear and plum trees and that the board will seek grant money to purchase and establish the orchard. 

Norris said the board will apply for grants from the Wyoming State Forestry Division, the Wyoming Hunger Initiative, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and some nonprofits. It will not use money donated from the community for the food pantry.

However, the council expressed concern over who would be responsible for long-term care and maintenance of the orchard and postponed the discussion until the Bread of Life Food Pantry drafts a memorandum of understanding stating the responsibilities of each party. Norris expects to present the memorandum to the council at a later date.

Norris said she likes the park location because it is in a community center, where a lot of people gather, and it is within walking distance of the schools, the YMCA and the playground. It also has a nearby city water main that the board could tap into and dig a pipe trench for a drip system.

If the orchard were on public property, people would be more inclined to pick fruit from it as well, according to Norris. She wants everyone in the community to have a chance to use it, particularly the patrons of the pantry. 

Originally, the area was the foundation for an arboretum established by the Buffalo Tree Board, according to Norris, so it “made sense” for the pantry board to put the orchard there. 

Norris said she would also prefer to work with the city on the project because city employees already mow and maintain that area and have a fruit-picking device for public trees. But if the city council rejects the project, she said, the food pantry board will pursue project completion in another area, such as on school property.

“If this doesn’t work out, the board will regroup and look at it again,” said Norris. “Conceptually, the vision is to put it on city property, but if we have to, we will visualize another location.”

Logan Williamson covers the city of Buffalo, town of Kaycee, the Chamber of Commerce and religion for the Buffalo Bulletin.

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