CINCINNATI — It may just look like a group of people planting trees, but the effort at Cincinnati’s Camp Washington Urban Farm is much more than that.  

What You Need To Know

  • The Common Orchard Project coordinated a fruit tree planting in Cincinnati's Camp Washington Urban Farm

  • Inmates from the neighboring River City Correctional Facility will help to care for the trees

  • The nonprofit "One Tree Planted" helped to sponsor the project

  • Employees from Fifth Third Bank participated as volunteers

“Hopefully, we’re creating these nodes of connection that thread our Cincinnati together,” said Chris Smyth, the director of Common Orchard Project, who coordinated the effort. They’re an affiliate of The Green Umbrella, Regional Sustainability Alliance and The Giving Grove, a network of more than 380 orchards across the U.S.

The effort received some funding from One Tree Planted, a nonprofit that has planted about 93 million trees in more than 80 countries. Smyth said the effort is growing in Cincinnati and across Ohio.

“There’s a lot of systemic changes that need to happen in Cincinnati to create a more resilient sustainable community and the orchard community is just part of that,” he said.

Some of the volunteers are employees at Fifth Third Bank.

“It isn’t just enough to write a check,” said Christian Adams, assistant vice-president of Digital Media and ECommerce. “We have an army of volunteers that truly care about their local communities.” 

Smyth taught about more than a dozen volunteers how to plant apple, pear and other fruit trees at the urban farm, which is next to the River City Correctional Facility. Smyth also coordinates with inmates and employees of the facility in caring for the trees and plants.

“Every time we work with River City Correction, the guys are fantastic,” Smyth said. “Getting outdoors is incredible for them they’re just so grateful working with their hands, and also call to mind what’s next here how could this be a job or a craft that you pick up after you leave.”

Adams said the larger community also will benefit from the project.

“Whether it is planting trees that bear fruit to address food deserts or revitalization and beautification efforts organizations like The Common Orchard Project make a real economic impact to the underserved surrounding areas,” he said.

At its most basic level, the physical act of planting trees also has its benefits for the volunteers.

“It brings joy and peace when I can be out here digging around, planting, weeding, doing what needs to be done,” said volunteer Jessica Schultz, who came on her own from Madeira.  

“I think I wanted to be out here today just because it’s part of the community and we’re building something that will give back to everybody,” Schultz said.

Volunteers opportunities will continue throughout the spring and summer, Smyth said. Information is available on the Common Orchard website.