MOUNT MORRIS TOWNSHIP, Mich. — An unfamiliar sight is coming to the urban setting in Genesee County.
Next to a burned-down house, vacant lots and dilapidated homes will soon stand rows among rows of fruit trees — 200 of them.
Karate KA Harvesting Earth Educational Farm is expanding to create a fruit tree orchard on 2.7 acres of vacant land in Mount Morris Township.
Jacky and Dora King, who run King's Youth Karate KA Harvesting Earth Farm, purchased the land about four years ago with the hope of one day starting an orchard.
"Can you imagine 200 fruit trees in bloom?" said Jacky King. "Our goal is to teach others it can be done. . We do it out of fun. This is what we do."
Harvesting Earth Farm is equipped with two greenhouses filled with a variety of vegetables, a chicken coop with about a dozen chickens, solar technology, geothermal energy and water wells.
Now, a few blocks away, the land is being prepared for the 200 trees, 100 berry bushes and room for community gardens.
The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, the Earth Day Network and the United Parcel Service partnered to fund the project. The orchard may have apple, peach, pear or cherry trees.
The project is one of 12 orchards in six cities across the country that will be planted as a part of Fruitful Neighborhoods, a community tour that brings orchards to urban communities.
At 9 a.m. May 20, the community is invited to help plant the trees on the Genesee County property.
Out of all the projects on the tour, the orchard here is the largest, said Erik Wilson, program arborist for Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. Most projects are only about 50 trees, with a few having 100, he said.
"It's awesome. I think (Jacky and Dora King) are undertaking a huge task. It's quite the event they are putting on," Wilson said. "I think they should be applauded for all the effort and the resources they are putting into it."
The trees won't begin to produce fruit for three or four years, so Jacky King is asking community members, organizations or businesses to sponsor a tree for $250. The money will go toward running the orchard and paying local youth to work there until money starts to come in from selling the fruit, Jacky King said.
He hopes to draw interns from all over, including local universities and colleges. Up to four at a time will able to live in a pole barn on the property that will be renovated and updated to include accommodations for the interns, solar panels and monitoring equipment so the orchard is watched at all times.
Hakim Gillard, 19, of Flint has worked for Harvesting Earth Farm for three years and will be the first intern for the orchard.
"I think it's really something good for the community, because people haven't seen that in Flint," Gillard said. "It's a real big deal. We don't really have too much going on in the Flint area. To see that in the urban area, that's really good."
Gillard said he hopes residents will see the orchard and everything that Harvesting Earth is working on and realize they can grow their own produce in their back yards. He will be happy to see some fruit on the trees in the next couple of years, he said.
Robyn du Pre, Fruit Tree Planting Foundation director of outreach and development, said Harvesting Earth Farm was chosen because of the work already being done in the community.
"They actually have been on our organizational waiting list for a while. When we first got their application materials, I was just really taken with the scope of what they're doing and that they are working with not a very traditional audience. Working with young people, particularly in Flint, it was just so exciting to us. . It was inspiring," du Pre said. "When we began working on the project, I had them on mind."
The project focuses on working with low-income communities that are in former industrial areas, she said.
Dora King said this project is really an investment for future generations. The apple trees are expected to produce fruit for the next 40 or 50 years, she said.
"We're really excited about being a part of this," Dora King said. "I don't know if ever 200 fruit trees were put in Flint. ... This is history-making stuff."
Fruit Tree Planting Foundation: http://www.ftpf.org
Information from: The Flint Journal, http://www.mlive.com/flint