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Filling our city with fruit, one tree at a time

Sheffield Fruit Trees are helping to bring an abundance of local fruit to the city. They told us more about what motivates the project, their Sheffield-specific varieties and their plans for a tree 'library' in Moss Valley.

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Bundy’s Ringwood Red apple.

Sheffield Fruit Trees

Sheffield Fruit Trees (SFT) specialise in growing local varieties of fruit trees, from Victoria plum and damson to pear and apple. The urban co-operative run their fruit tree nursery as a social enterprise based in Meersbrook, with strong priorities around food sovereignty, growing skills and widening access to fruit in public and communal spaces.

Sven from Sheffield Fruit Trees told us more about their passion for growing trees and increasing knowledge about how we can help them to thrive.

Tell us more about Sheffield Fruit Trees?

SFT began life as an offshoot of the Abundance project. We’ve harnessed the experience of ten years of harvesting fruit trees across the city to choose specific Sheffield varieties to cultivate and sell.

We grow apple, pear, plum and cherry varieties as well as a couple of lesser known fruits, such as medlar. We also offer soft fruits such as gooseberries, currants and jostaberries.

We cultivate, sell and donate fruit trees and other perennial edibles for planting in and around Sheffield, including in public and communal spaces.

We planted an orchard as part of Thrybergh Country Parks Covid-19 memorial called Hope Fields earlier this year, with a mix of different fruit varieties.

You can also find some of our trees in Kent Road community garden in Meersbrook. We’re currently working on quite a few different local projects so you’ll be seeing our trees pop up in various other places very soon.

Our aim is to connect people with food growing, land and nature and to improve quality of life for all.

What’s your vision?

We want to help to give local people access to healthy food produced using sustainable methods and work together to increase skills around growing.

We recognise the challenges of the climate crisis, lack of access to natural landscapes and to nutritious, locally-grown food. We see ourselves as part of the pathway to a more community-based and ecologically regenerative society.

In the light of the Covid pandemic and post-Brexit chaos, it seems clear to us that food sovereignty is massively important in terms of food security and in helping people to connect with the land through food growing.

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Granada crabapple.

Sheffield Fruit Trees

How do you decide what to grow?

One of our main focuses is growing Sheffield-specific fruit varieties. We currently have around 15 apple, plum, pear and quince varieties. As well as being particularly tasty and having a Sheffield story, these local ‘ecotypes’ or ‘wildlings’ have succeeded in our local climate and are therefore well adapted to being grown here.

We also grow a selection of modern, heritage and Yorkshire varieties. These are often dictated by what access to orchards we have to harvest propagation material. We are very grateful to Huw at Hazelhurst Fruitery, and Martin, who has coordinated efforts at Beighton Community Orchard for a number of years. We also love geeking out at the Northern Fruit Group’s yearly ‘stick swap’, a forum for exchanging graft material for different cultivars.

Our intention is to begin planting a ‘library’ of trees at Moss Valley this winter. This will help with security in terms of what trees we have access to in the long-term.

Why is sustainable growing important to you?

As a tree nursery we are committed to the ethics of regenerative land use. By applying the principles of permaculture, we aim to take care of the soil as well as the people working with it.

It’s important to us that whilst growing trees and plants for sale we are not stripping the land of its nutrients and life. Our aim is to grow in a way that constantly builds soil and increases biodiversity.

One of our main challenges on this theme has been moving away from using plastic. Horticulture is full of the stuff. We’re still struggling to work out how to produce biodegradable plant labels.

What do you hope for in the future for SFT?

We’re currently taking over a new site in Moss Valley where we will establish an orchard of all the varieties that we grow. The site will also allow us to expand our current fruit tree nursery and we’re really excited about the possibilities this new chapter will bring.

Our vision is to have more trees growing in community spaces across Sheffield and to create an abundance of fruit that is easily accessible to everyone. We recognise that we need to do more than just plant the trees and hope for the best, so we want to share the skills and knowledge needed to take care of these trees for decades to come - and enjoy the fruit.

Learn more

Find out more about Sheffield Fruit Trees on Facebook, Instagram and their website, where you can sign up for their newsletter and browse their online tree shop.

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