Winnipeg’s first public orchard, along the Bishop Grandin Greenway in St Vital came about as a result of a unique and innovative partnership between the City of Winnipeg, Manitoba Hydro, the Friends of Bishop Grandin Greenway Initiative (BGGI), and the Province of Manitoba. The orchard is beneath a Manitoba Hydro right of way and the money for fruit trees came from their Forest Enhancement Fund.
Students at nearby Victor Mager School initially had the idea to plant apple trees along the greenway, and the idea was enhanced when BGGI members started to explore the history of the area and found that a family that had built a home there in 1931 planted apple, plum and cherry trees which still grow there. The day of the planting more than fifty volunteers, including students from Victor Mager School and community members young and old, helped plant Norland apples, Nanking cherries, cranberries, and buffalo berries.
City of Winnipeg Naturalist Services Branch staff worked with volunteers in separate areas to re-establish native fruit trees. In 2008, the City planted pincherry and nannyberry and in 2009 planted basswood, green ash, highbush cranberry, buffalo berry, and other native species. City staff noted that native species are most appropriate since they are better adapted to the soil and weather conditions and provide food and shelter for native wildlife species too.
The BGGI Public Orchard is a significant step towards increased food security and healthy, vital communities. It incorporates an ecologically sound plan that educates about native plant species, preserves wildlife habitat and our natural heritage, and empowers community members. The collaboration between regular citizens, private and public sectors, and the municipal government is something to celebrate alone. As more people learn about the fruits that we can grow here in Winnipeg, the more food secure we will become as a city. Indeed everyone is looking forward to harvesting fruit at annual community harvests in coming years.