There is a segment of the “green revolution” that organizes itself around harvesting urban fruit trees. Many city fruit trees go neglected, but still produce abundant fruit. Some organizations provide maps to fruit growing on public property or trees that have branches hanging over into public domain. Other organizations have teams of volunteers that pick fruit with permission of the tree owners. The goal of both is to see that the nutritious value of fruit does not go to waste in urban environments.
Urban fruit tree harvesting is defined by individual organizations as a way to provide a solution to the growing need of access to healthy food. The Portland Fruit Tree Project says that “by empowering neighbors to share in the harvest and care of urban fruit trees, we are preventing waste; building community knowledge and resources; and creating sustainable, cost-free ways to obtain healthy, locally grown food. Because money doesn’t grow on trees… but fruit does!”
How it Works
Urban gardeners register with the local fruit harvesting organization before their fruit trees are ripe. Once in the database, a site visit is made two to three weeks before the expected harvest. Organizers arrange a date for harvest and coordinate a team of volunteers. Tree owners are encouraged to take part in the harvesting, but are not required to. In 2009 at the Portland fruit Tree Project, half the harvest went to volunteers and half to local food banks.
The Los Angeles urban fruit harvesting organization, Fallen Fruit, publishes maps of fruit trees and other food growing in public domain. “We aim to reconfigure the relation between those who have resources and those who do not,” is the declaration on their website. They have grown from public fruit mapping to organizing public jam-making events and night-time fruit foraging tours. Their focus is on providing free food for individuals and families that would otherwise go to waste.
Fruit tree harvesting organizations often begin with projects to harvest fruit, but quickly grow their focus to include education on all aspects of fruit tree husbandry. The Portland Fruit Tree Project gives classes on summer pruning techniques, tree care, and fruit preservation techniques. Fallen Fruit has projects such as “Love Apples” that plant fruit in unused public space. Their public fruit jam-making project is held in museums or art galleries.
Urban fruit tree harvesting organizations take on the expression of their local communities. The L.A. based Fallen Fruit also promotes art events such the 2010 “Show Us How You Eat” project that encourages people to send a one-minute video clip of eating. KW Urban Harvest in Ontario, Canada, encourages business owners to register the fruit trees on their property and become “tree stewards.”