Something special is beginning to bloom in Bismarck.
“I’ve been with the orchard since it started,” says Karen Ehrens, a volunteer with Go! Bismarck Mandan. “I love seeing it grow up.”
She’s talking about the Bismarck Community Orchard — a sort of ‘secret garden’ nestled just south of the Clem Kelly Softball Complex. The orchard was planted five years ago by Go! Bismarck Mandan.
“The fruit is for all the members of the community,” Ehrens says. “When we have enough fruit in a batch, we donate it to say, local women’s shelters or other groups that help people find food to eat.”
But an orchard doesn’t take care of itself. Fortunately, a handful of regular volunteers are ready to help — including the Bismarck Police Youth Bureau.
“We were asked to tear some trees up,” says Tonie Garcia, the youth worker in charge of the Youth Bureau. “I knew a couple guys that were down for destroying some stuff, so I called them out here.”
Garcia says the orchard is a perfect place for kids in need of community service hours to get their hands dirty — and connect with their community. “Anytime they drive by this point, or they’re near here, they’re gonna have a recollection of what they did in the community, or in this garden. Even though it’s something minor, it’s something that’s important to them,” he says.
After a spring and summer full of elbow grease, another harvest season will arrive — and Katie Johnke and Karen Ehrens will see the literal fruits of their labor.
“When they’re still warm from the sun, and the juice explodes in your mouth when you bite into it!” Ehrens says.
“That’s what we’re trying to do with this, is create access for those who may not have it, or may not be exposed to fresh produce, or know where it comes from,” explains Katie Johnke of Go! Bismarck Mandan. “Does it come from the store? No, we have to grow it somewhere!”
“I believe that many hands make light work,” Ehrens says. “That if we all work together, we can find enough food to feed everyone.”
It’s that mission that makes the many hands who volunteer at the Bismarck Community Orchard people you should know.
Click here to visit the Bismarck Community Orchard’s Facebook page, so you can know exactly when the fruit is ready to be picked and eaten.
That fruit is free for anyone — but the folks in charge say they welcome donations, so they can plant even more trees and bushes.
Click here to contact Go! Bismarck Mandan to learn how you can help.