October 27, 2020 – The City of Varazdin is planting Croatia’s first community orchard – the space will bring together residents of all ages, provide free fruits and play a role in educating about organic produce and cultivation
The first community orchard in this part of Europe is being built in Varazdin. The community orchard will be situated to the west of the city centre, in the Haller alley, just behind the city cemetery. In the first phase, some 250 trees will be planted and be accessible to the public.
Beautifully landscaped in the early 1900s by Herman Haller, the City of Varazdin cemetery is one of its best gardens. It contains works by internationally recognised Croatian sculptors Antun Augustinčić and Roberto Frangeš-Mihanović. Frangeš-Mihanović is responsible for the very famous statue of King Tomislav which faces the main train station in Zagreb. The Varazdin community orchard will be located in Haller’s alley, just behind the cemetery © Parkovi d.d. Varaždin
A community orchard, sometimes known as a public orchard, is an increasingly popular use of public land in some areas of western Europe and North America. They are an asset shared by a community and not managed for personal or business profit.
A community orchard has many benefits – it increases community access to healthy, organic fruit, it teaches young people about food, organic produce, agriculture and cultivation and it allows ordinary people to develop cultivation skills. This is particularly useful to those who themselves own no land for growing. They also increase co-operation and inter-generational socialising within a community and can be made into focal points for community activities.
St Ann’s Community orchard in Nottinghamshire, England © Clem Rutter, Rochester, Kent. (www.clemrutter.net)
However, community orchards are not always met with universal approval. Interest in community gardening and cultivation schemes can wane over time, especially if they are started without authorisation. The burden of taking care of such projects then falls on city authorities.
Thankfully, any objections to this brilliant idea in Varazdin have been removed – the Varazdin community orchard will be taken care of by the city’s own parks authority. They will decide on which particular fruits and trees are to be planted. Anyone from the community can come and help themselves.
City of Varazdin cemetery, behind which the community orchard will be placed © Turistička zajednica grada Varaždina
Low-lying fruit trees and berries are often chosen for community orchards. Their height level means they are not out of reach for youngsters who are being educated in such areas, and harvest is made safer, easier and more accessible to all age ranges.
The community orchard in Varazdin will be arranged in expanding circles. The first planted trees are expected to bear their first fruits within just a few years. Some residents of Croatia might be of the opinion that their communities already have a community orchard. However, taking fruit from a neighbours trees, even if granted permission to do so, is something different to a community orchard, in which access to pick fruit is opened to the general public at any time, not just community members and with no prior agreement necessary. Stealing fruit from your neighbour’s trees and bushes is certainly not comparable to a community orchard.