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Many have asked about the orchard project....

The organization for which I am the CEO has been around since 1998. We provide employment training to welfare recipients and ex-offenders in a five county region of Appalachian Ohio. On our site we have a large factory that does sub assembly work for local manufacturing companies, GED classes, substance abuse counseling, drivers training, parenting classes, and soft skills (got to work, be on time, get along with others, do a good job, no excuses, respect for supervisors, etc).

Many of our participants recieve an educational stipend equal to minimum wage while they are here. If they are in the paid portion of the program they are required to use their earnings to pay child support, court fines and fees, restitution, etc. We work closely with probation and parole and the courts to enforce rules and consequences. We recently opened a satellite facility in a neighboring county. Between the 2 facilties, we have about 120 participants enrolled in the program. Our operating budget last year was about $1.1M. We want these folks to become contributing, taxpaying, lawabiding citizens of our community.

Two summers ago, during the economic downturn we looked to diversify since our manufacturing work slacked off. We have a five acre site with about 2.5 acres tillable. Not great soil but enough to grow a variety of vegetables. We secured a grant and community donations of seed, plants, fertilizer, machinery and planted a HUGE garden. We harvested enough vegetable in the first year to supply all of our participatns as well as three homeless shelters and 8 food banks. Last summer, the deer discovered us early and we lost a great deal of our crop before a grant came through to fence the garden. This year, we have a fenced garden (8.5 ft chain link with the extra wire on top at an angle to confuse the far it has worked). We also partnered with the Parole Aurthority to install a bee hive and several of our participants are learning bee keeping. The hive is doing amazingly well. We also installed three hydrants and a drip irrigation system for the garden. All grant funded and through in-kind donations.

I decided to apply for this orchard because the garden would be too big for us to manage all of it now that our manufacturing work has picked up. My thought was that if we could use 1-1.5 acres for the orchard the rest could be more intensively planted to vegetables and minimize our weeding and labor. They will provide us with trees, bushes, and technical assistance to get it up and running. Then we will be reponsible. We have free mulch available to us and that should help with weeds in the orchard area.

So....that is the project in a nutshell.....we are currently re-designing our website since we changed providers and got an entirely new network and computer needed updating anyway....but it will not be up for a while...I wish I could direct you to our site but it only exits on the drawing board at this time....

Thank you for asking about the project and I hope you are able to get the word out to get votes for us...we are a small rural town and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to compete with some of the larger projects.

But we are trying

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3 Replies
Honored Advisor

Re: Many have asked about the orchard project....

LA, thanks for the full description of your program.  I've gathered bits and pieces of an impression over the  years, but that explanation put it all in a nutshell. 

The garden sounds very successful.  An orchard is a great longer-term diversification of the project.  I am voting daily, too.

Glad to hear your manufacturing side is picking up...that is a good sign!   Little glimmers of a turnaround in the economy are starting to appear here and there. 

Keep up the great work!

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Veteran Contributor

Re: Many have asked about the orchard project....

Wow!!!  That's alot of activity going on, how do you keep track of it all?  Sounds like the orchard and the garden are a great idea and a great use of land that would otherwise be wasted space in a sense.  When you get your website up will you please post it so that we can see.

Also, on a side note, if you are looking for garden seed donations try getting with Monsanto.  They do have a vegetable seed branch and I wonder if they would be willing to help out with donations of seed.  Just a thought.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Many have asked about the orchard project....

I wonder if Stark Bros. or some other orchard supply house would donate trees and other fruit plants, too.  They have got to have a set of seconds that are not first-quality saleable items...maybe they'd part with some for a good cause?  

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