Worker co-op launches fruit tree nursery and heritage orchard in Sheffield

Sheffield Fruit Trees is crowdfunding to support the venture, with match funding pledged by the Forestry Commission

Worker co-op Sheffield Fruit Trees is fundraising to expand its work of filling the South Yorkshire city with fruit trees. 

The co-op runs a fruit tree nursery which supplies allotments, councils and commercial gardens with trees, as well as donating trees to community groups and organisations.

It says it wants “Sheffield of the future to have fruit trees in every park and on every street corner”, and is now embarking on a project to further that vision.

Sheffield Fruit Trees has taken on 0.5 acres of former hay meadow in Moss Valley and aims to crowdfund £18,500 by 12 January to help set up a tree nursery and orchard on the site. 

The Forestry Commission has agreed to match fund any monies raised, which will go towards a borehole, pump and irrigation system, an orchard training building/nursery office/tool store, a set of tools to maintain the site, fencing and gates to protect the nursery trees, volunteer expenses for orchard-planting workdays, and compost, woodchip and other organic soil improvers.

Sheffield Fruit Trees said: “We know that the future of food-growing needs to be based on techniques that build soil and bring in biodiversity, so a key part of our project will be to regenerate this patch of land so that it can not only support a tree nursery but also provide habitat for pollinating insects and other creatures.”

Sheffield Fruit Trees was established in 2018 as an offshoot of the Abundance project, which maps Sheffield’s forgotten fruit trees and distributes fruit that would otherwise go to waste.

Inspired by this project, a group of its participants decided to start growing more fruit trees in Sheffield through a process called grafting, where living wood is taken from a mature fruit tree and joined onto a rootstock(the lower part of the tree). This allows growers to select the varieties they wish to grow.

Since then, Sheffield Fruit Trees has been able to grow 400 fruit trees per year, including 40 varieties of apple. 

At the new larger site, the co-op expects to be able to grow up to 1000 trees a year, as well as setting up a heritage orchard of rare local fruit tree varieties. This will provide Sheffield Fruit Trees with the cuttings to graft new trees as well as helping to preserve the varieties.

Sheffield Fruit Trees added: “We wouldn’t be where we are now without the support of everyone who’s ever bought a tree from us, come to one of our workshops or helped out at one of our volunteer days. Knowing that people believe in what we’re doing is what keeps us going. So we’re really grateful for the support and help to make this happen.”

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