The Altona Community Action Network (A-CAN) and Town of Altona are once again partnering to create new opportunities for the community to connect with one another and with the world around it.

Council has agreed to let A-CAN develop a three-acre plot north of the Community Garden and turn it into a community orchard, a space that produces food and provides an example of a climate-resilient food system to educate, nourish and inspire the community.

"I think it really came out of the Community Garden and the idea of bringing people together around growing food and thinking about what other food can we grow, and looking around the Community Garden at the space that was available and thinking about the potential of what that could look like," explained A-CAN co-chair Jonah Langelotz who is part of a three-person task force leading the charge on the orchard project. 

"The plan is to focus on varieties of fruits and berries that we know grow well here and to plant them in a way that can be efficient to manage and harvest, but also resilient. To us, that looks like added diversity - not just a single row of a single species like apple trees, but maybe having a combination of apple trees, plums or pears, maybe some shrubs in between."

The proposal, recently approved by Council, contains more than just trees. It includes a naturalized retention pond & hill, half an acre of main orchard growing space, two secondary growing areas, eco-buffers, native tallgrass prairie, and a pathway system connecting it to the existing trail system. 

"So, it's not supposed to be a traditional orchard with one, two, three varieties of things, but really focus on diversity and what that can add to the community both for us as people in Altona but if we think about beneficial insects and plants," added Langelotz. 

The ambitious three-year development plan would see grant writing, site surveys and planning done this year, with shovels in the ground in 2023.

The orchard project signifies an extension of the partnership between the Town and A-CAN. Mayor Al Friesen says Council is happy to once again join forces with the local group. 

"People who come to our community talk about the quality of our baseball facilities, they talk about the Gallery in the Park. Those things happen because there was a group of residents and/or community leaders that took the initiative, had the vision and the energy and made it come together. Town Council played a role of some sort (and) this is another example of that," said Friesen. "People who have some ideas as to our role in respecting and taking care of the earth...and we see that as well. We think this is another example of our community going to where it wants to be as a progressive community and so, we're happy to partner with A-CAN in one way or another."

"There are many parts to a growing community," added Friesen. "Some relate to jobs and industrial activity, some relate to what we want to be as a community and this (the orchard project) speaks to that."