Orchard Thrives on Former Navy Base

Alameda Backyard Growers -- From left to right, F2M orchard team members Michi Lee, Leng Kwek, Maria Ducey, Marla Koss and Alison Limoges.
Alameda Backyard Growers -- From left to right, F2M orchard team members Michi Lee, Leng Kwek, Maria Ducey, Marla Koss and Alison Limoges.

Orchard Thrives on Former Navy Base

It could be argued that encountering the word “drawbridge” on a page means words like “moat” or “castle” might follow, as in fairy tales. Alameda is an island, offers a choice of various drawbridges over which to cross, and as the only city in the region so inclined, should probably be forgiven for considering itself special, if not exactly enchanted.

“Orchard” brings to mind acreage with neat rows of fruit trees along a country road — nothing normally to do with islands. But this island has an orchard, and a small portion of it can be glimpsed from behind a cyclone fence while passing by on Main Street just north of Willie Stargell Avenue. It has nearly a hundred fruit-bearing trees, vines and shrubs, and during its peaceful daylight hours can feel a bit enchanted.

Eight years after the 1997 NAS Alameda base closure, Alameda Point Collaborative (APC) established Farm2Market, a two-acre Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) enterprise, and began planting an orchard that today provides apples, blueberries, apricots, plums, persimmons, citrus, avocados, figs, mulberries, grapes and more to weekly subscribers and to APC residents.

Along with sister enterprise Ploughshares Nursery, Farm2Market provides on-the-job training for adult APC residents and Summer OJT for APC youth. Volunteers from the wider community carry out many farm and orchard tasks as well.

Farm2Market Manager Johnny Bootlace oversees the running of the farm in all its aspects – as a farm and as a non-profit CSA enterprise. As an experienced orchardist and AC Master Gardener, Assistant Farm Manager Sarah Miller directs the volunteer orchard team.

Together they encounter and manage many of the same obstacles and issues with growing produce as gardeners do all across town. The difference maybe, F2M’s ecosystem has been managed holistically over time, and with proper seasonal pruning and best practices in the orchard, problems that might ruin backyard fruit and cause gardeners to come unglued can often be anticipated and fended off.

One example of these “best practices” in the orchard includes the tedious-but-necessary chore of thinning endless clusters of baby fruit to stop codling moths from infesting the apples, or to keep overladen branches from breaking under the weight of too many plums.

Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) regularly partners with APC to run Fruit Tree Care workshops at both Farm2Market and Ploughshares Nursery. The most recent workshop was held at F2M on Aug. 5, on Summer Fruit Tree Pruning and Care. Focus was on summer pruning of stone fruit (plums, cherries, apricots, peaches, and genetic dwarf peaches and nectarines).

A workshop featuring dormant pruning of apples and pears is planned for February 2024.

For more information on these and the scheduling of other ABG workshops, join ABG’s email list at alamedabackyardgrowers.org/contact. To learn more about F2M’s CSA weekly produce subscription program, see https://apcfarm2market-csa.square.site.

There are plenty of volunteer tasks at F2M, offering a chance to get some fresh air and make new friends. The orchard team meets on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and is always looking for new members (complete novices are always welcome). For information, see https://apcollaborative.org/volunteer.

Marla Koss is a volunteer with ABG.

ABG is dedicated to teaching our neighbors how to grow food with online and in-person educational programming. Visit ABG at www.alamedabackyardgrowers.org to join the ABG mailing list to receive an educational newsletters and information on classes and events, locate the Free Seed Library nearest you, or join Project Pick as a fruit picker or fruit donor. Contact ABG at info@alamedabackyardgrowers.org.