Chesapeake rooftop orchard provides relief for families in need

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Posted at 4:40 PM, Feb 26, 2021

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Volunteers are planting the seeds that will bring food to the fingertips of families in need in South Norfolk.

Three floors above ground, a rooftop orchard is growing at the ForKids Center for Children and Families.

“When you grow a seed and it sprouts and it grows and it flowers, then it produces a berry or something, it’s just fun watching all of that,” explained Senior Horticulture Extension Agent for the City of Chesapeake Mike Andruczyk.

ForKids is a nonprofit that temporarily houses children and families experiencing homelessness while helping them gain long-term housing. It partnered with Tymoff + Moss Architects, Hourigan Construction, Healthy Chesapeake, the Virginia Department of Forestry, the Chesapeake Master Gardeners, the Chesapeake Department of Health and the South Norfolk Civic League to create the orchard.

The new building is still under construction, but when families move in in April, cherries, figs, blueberry, broccoli, peas, thyme and more will begin to flourish in the outdoor oasis.

“We can also teach nutrition, and it’s just great for people, mentally, and for our kids to be able to put something in the ground and watch it grow,” said ForKids CEO Thaler McCormick.

Kids will help take care of the garden as a part of the organization's education programs.

The fruits -- and vegetables -- of their labor will be served in the ForKids kitchen.

“Just getting out in the garden, pulling weeds, can be very helpful and de-stressing, and then seeing a butterfly fly by or harvesting your first your first tomato, that can make you smile,” Andruczyk said.

Outside of the ForKids center, the surrounding neighborhood gets to reap the rewards of more greenery.

“Urban centers, particularly neighborhoods of high poverty, tend to have over 50 percent less trees and they can be up to 5 degrees warmer. That impacts utility bills, that impacts the air quality, all sorts of things,” McCormick said.

A cool way to get away from life’s stressors, the urban orchard shows how hard work can pay off in a garden, and in life.