In December of last year, Amy Countryman submitted her undergraduate thesis for an open-access community orchard to the City of Bloomington. It was a school project, and she thought nothing more would come of it. But about a month later, Lee Huss from the Bloomington Tree Commission called and said the city was interested in her idea.
Since then the project received approval from the city, along with an offer for an orchard location. A plant selection committee was created, along with a board of directors. Plans have been laid out for around 80 trees, and with the help of Bloomington residents, the project won a grant for at least 20 trees from The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF). And last Saturday the orchard had its first community work day.
"Bloomington was ready for this project," said Countryman. "People are really excited about it. And it just took some folks getting together and organizing."
Lydia Comer sits perched on a railing outside of her house watching the traffic on Atwater Avenue rush by. A big, wispy, brown dog sprawls contentedly in the side yard, while a calico cat leans against the screen of the open window. A few of Comer's 15 housemates stand in the doorway, and the conversation meanders between different kinds of for-profit, cooperative structures and who's making dinner tonight.
"I knew I wanted to be here before I got here," she said. "I was the first person to sign on for this house."
Comer lives at 630 E. Atwater Ave. in one of the two cooperative, or co-op, houses in town rented by Bloomington Cooperative Living (BCL). BCL is a local non-profit organization that tries to "foster an economically, ecologically, and socially sustainable society by promoting the value of cooperation and diversity," according to its Web site.