Rideau Lakes Community Orchard

Rideau Lakes Community Orchard – The Vision

In recent years, the Rideau Lakes Horticultural Society has been working to expand and enhance edible plantings throughout the Township and is committed to continuing this work to tackle possible future local food security issues.

The Society has for many years granted money and provided volunteers to the local community gardens and Food4All initiative undertaken by Country Roads Community Health Centre.

In the fall of 2015, the Society surveyed Township residents, identifying hosts and volunteers to revitalize existing edible plantings. It has since provided four workshops (free to Society members) on pruning fruit trees, as well as online pruning resources through its website. It has assessed the stock of potential hosts and is working with one host to care for existing stock, in return for most of the harvest being donated to local food banks.

The Society has also been working on renewing its once close relationship with Rideau District High School to bring a “from seed to table” perspective to the curriculum and potentially after-hours student activities. To this end, volunteers worked with School staff and students in 2018-19 to tend and augment plants in the School greenhouse and partnered with School staff on grant applications to install an outdoor classroom and edible garden on School property. Work with students resulted in the Society receiving the Ontario Horticultural Association District 3’s Sowing Seeds Award for 2019.

Most grants for edible plantings are restricted to municipalities and a variety of community groups, and expressly require the planting to be on public property. Consequently, the Society is working with the Township of Rideau Lakes to locate suitable public land and apply for grants for a community orchard. This undertaking will in the coming years require development of a formal partnership most likely governed by a subcommittee of municipal Council.

The Society sees this edible planting opportunity as part of the community food hub concept that adjacent communities have put in place. This concept generally includes donating produce to local community food banks and charitable organizations providing meals to the public. It also provides a spark for community development through various activities undertaken by both volunteers and paid staff from municipalities and not-for-profit organizations. As well, in future years, the Township and Society could apply for a Summer Employment grant to assist in this work and provide employment opportunities for students involved in the School’s horticultural activities.

The township identified a piece of and behind Kin Park in 2019 for this community orchard. Then Covid arrived and the Township gave Rogers permission to build a telecommunications tower on the site. The community orchard will still proceed on this site, but planting may need to be delayed until the construction of the tower is completed. In the interim, the Society has identified a privately owned Hydro easement on Harlem Road that contains about a dozen mature fruit-producing wild apple trees. The Board will, in 2021, recruit volunteers to bring these trees to full production through cutting away competing vegetation fertilizing and pruning, with the owner's permission to share the produce in the fall with local food banks and volunteers.

The Society is looking for residents to volunteer to help govern, manage and work in the community orchard. We are also looking for in-kind donations from local businesses to make this dream come true. If you are interested in helping out in any capacity, please contact Yvonne Helwig at (613) 282-2877 or yhelwig@kingston.net