Monday, March 5, 2012

Public Fruit

If you're a regular reader of Growing Tables, you already know about Gasquet's community orchard, but you might not know that the new orchard at Mountain School is part of a growing trend. Public fruit -- for lack of a better term -- brings community and healthy foods together in a similar way that community gardens do, but they are long-lasting, perennial community builders. Fruit takes time and making a commitment to fruit is a years-long project.

One of my favorite public fruit projects is Fallen Fruit. Fallen Fruit literally puts public fruit on the map. Did you know that in most states, there is legal access to certain fruit grown on private land? If I have a beautiful apple tree on my property, but a large branch leans out over the sidewalk and/or street, the fruit overhanging the sidewalk is fair game for anyone walking past it. This may be more rebellious than some folks are comfortable with, but Fallen Fruit volunteers map out overhanging fruit trees, trees in public parks, and other publicly-accessible fruit trees and create maps like this one: 
This might not seem like a community-building exercise, but Fallen Fruit goes so much further. The map would simply let individuals pick fruit on their own; Fallen Fruit brings them together with events like their Public Fruit Jams. A Fruit Jam invites people to gather with fruit they've picked from public sources or their own backyards and make jam together. I try (and sometimes fail) to host a strawberry shortcake party every year. I've gone through as many as 18 pounds of strawberries at past parties and I can tell you that sitting around hulling strawberries (or cutting peaches or apples) is a great bonding experience. I love the idea of community jam and jelly making sessions and we have at least one person agitating to start them in Crescent City this summer.

Fast forward now to the last 10 days. In that time, I have seen multiple links to an exciting new public fruit project and I've had two people send me links as well. Given our forty days of blogging, I can read the writing on the wall -- this needed to make the blog!

In Seattle, a resident taking a permaculture class decided that a public forest in his working-class neighborhood would be a great community project. After three years of community outreach, grant-writing, and working with the city, this dream is about to become a reality. This summer, almost two acres of land owned by a public utility will be turned into the Beacon Food Forest, a publicly accessible orchard of fruit and berries. If it goes well, an additional five acres will be added over time to create what will be the largest public orchard in the country. You can read about it via NPR's The Salt column or the Good Environment's blog. It will be exciting to watch this project grow -- no pun intended -- and see this idea spread.

If you come across any interesting projects or articles, and you'd like to see them featured on the blog, let us know. As this post proves, we want readers' input!

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