Recently the Victory Garden Initiative (VGI) ushered in the hope for spring when they announced the winners of five new community orchards that will be planted in April.

Every community in Milwaukee County was encouraged to apply for the project that would support their cultivation of local food sources in the city.

Selecting from the many applicants, VGI’s Fruity Nutty Committee chose five winners: Centro Hispano, Hales Corners Environmental Committee, Urban Eden Community Garden, St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care-Bucyrus Campus, and a partnership between Milwaukee Jewish Day School and Westside Academy to steward the growth of fruit and nut producing plants in their neighborhoods.

As runners up, Gordon Place and the Five Points Neighborhood Association will receive a smaller Seedling Award. In total, 150 plants be growing this spring to feed their communities.

VGI builds communities that grow their own food, creating a neighborhood-based, sustainable, and nutritious food system. Planting these five orchards is key to that fruitful work. The winning groups will receive up to 30 fruit and nut producing plants each, which will include hazelnuts, cherries, peaches, pears, apples, and plums.

Toni Rivera, Executive Director of Centro Hispano, says, “This orchard gives us the opportunity to bring our community together to share food, love, and connections. We hope to start a revolution of healthy living in life, work, and play!”

Dr. Daniel Weber, a lead in the MJDS/WSA partnership notes, “We are incredibly excited about our project because it will bring together two schools from two very different communities. It will bring children and families together in a way that will allow them to learn about and with each other. We always knew that food can bring people together!”

Juantzceal Tolliver of Five Points responded, after finding out they were a winner, “I am so happy. Now I am looking forward to spring. This will give our youth something productive to do.”

Neighborhood orchards provide more than natural fruits and nuts. They cultivate roots for closer communities, offset expenses on grocery bills, and get our neighbors outside to enjoy and preserve our environment.

This year’s Fruity Nutty Five Contest launched on November 1, 2015, and winners were announced at the Fruity Nutty Affair on February 20, 2016. After the planting in April, VGI’s Fruity Nutty Five Contest will have planted 25 orchards throughout Milwaukee County.

Applications will be accepted for 2017 beginning later in the year. Details will be announced on the Victory Garden Initiative website.

Victory Garden Initiative builds communities that grow their own food, creating a community-based, socially just, environmentally sustainable, nutritious food system for all. The scope of Victory Garden’s educational programs and urban agricultural projects encompass a complete cycle: from soil, to seed, to plate, and composting back to soil in back yards, front yards, rooftops and on patios.