Fruit orchard at the Thunderbird

Residents recently planted 225 raspberry plants on the property

Nikolas Hatzidimitriou (left) and Alan Mogielka (middle) were instrumental in planting a new fruit orchard at the Thunderbird

Nikolas Hatzidimitriou (left) and Alan Mogielka (middle) were instrumental in planting a new fruit orchard at the Thunderbird

Residents at the Thunderbird Motel Project have transformed part of the property into a fruit orchard.

The 1.5-acre garden was recently rototilled, and posts and support wires were put in for 225 raspberry plants. The new addition compliments the 25 variety fruit trees that have been planted over the last few years. A total of 225 seedless blackberry plants will also be planted on the property.

“It’s a nice clean garden and it’s easy to care for,” said Paul Keller, homeless outreach program coordinator.

“You don’t have to worry about whether it gets too much water, too much sun, or not enough nutrients. Berries will grow and it’s a product we need. Our population is learning responsibility, learning to care for things and look after their environment.”

Cooper’s Foods currently donates vegetables to the Thunderbird project, but Keller said fresh fruit is hard to come by. Berries will provide an opportunity for residents to make jams, freeze fruit for the off-season, and be involved in a couple work projects.

Keller said horticultural therapy is used to build self-worth, increase physical exercise and promote cooperation. The rows are also flat in the grass so that the orchard is accessible for people with disabilities to pick fruit.

“These nutrients for our clientele are typically lacking,” said Keller.

“It’s hard to make decisions and hard to get up and feel motivated without nutrition. We’re helping to provide a balanced diet and balanced life.”