CSG Highlight: Orchard Community Learning Center

By Carly Herndon, AmeriCorps Vista Intern.

In 2017 NS/S donated over 3,916 seed packets to 157 organizations, and we are ready to kick off 2018 with the next cycle of Community Seed Grants. If you are a part of an organization in the Greater Southwest region that supports educational, food security, and community development projects, then you may be eligible for a Community Seed Grant. Find out how to apply here.

With the next deadline being January 19th, we want to take the time to reflect on past projects and how they have made an impact on their community. One project in particular is working to promote the importance of local foods in South Phoenix. Orchard Community Learning Center (OCLC) is a sustainable urban farm and a Community Seed Grant Recipient from May 2017. Not only do they practice sustainable farming methods, they promote youth and family education though STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Mathematics) summer camps and offer Community Supported Agriculture or CSA. A CSA is when the consumer pays the farmer directly for a certain amount of fresh vegetables. This way, community members get to know the farm and farmer that grows their food. South Phoenix currently does not offer many farmers markets, and OCLC is aiming to combat that through starting their own farmers market on site.

We recently had a visit at OCLC and learned how they use certain techniques to promote sustainable farming. Below is an image of their orange orchard where they are using fava beans as a cover crop. Cover crops are grown to enrich the soil. In this case, the legumes are providing nitrogen to the trees.

OCLC orchard


OCLC is working on a project with local schools to start community and school gardens. This open field will be a place for multiple schools in the area to start their own gardens. School gardens are an excellent way for students to get hands-on experience in gardening and the overall importance of gastronomy. If you are an educator interested in starting a school garden, a Community Seed Grant may be appropriate for you!

A big thank you to Orchard Community Learning Center for taking the time to show us their property and inspire us to think about where our food comes from. We are proud to support OCLC and similar projects. Another big thank you to our members, through your support we are able to share arid adapted seeds with community projects like OCLC. More information on OCLC can be found here.

Orchard Community Learning Center