Public fruit trees gaining ground–in an underground sort of way

Posted by on May 12, 2013

Austin Young of Fallen Fruit planting trees at Del Aire Park in Los Angeles. Photo: Michal Czerwonka, New York Times.

There’s a wonderful article in today’s New York Times about the subversive trend in urban agriculture to plant fruit trees in urban spaces.

A loose-knit group called Fallen Fruit is planting fruit trees in the Los Angeles area–its bounty to be free for the taking. And up the coast in San Francisco, the Guerrilla Grafters are surreptitiously grafting branches of fruit-bearing trees onto ornamental trees.

Even parks departments are now catching on, which portends well for an urban environment in which more of what we eat can be grown within walking distance.

For more, read the full article, “Tasty, and Subversive, Too.”


  1. I am happy to see that parts of the USA are getting as wise as the old Soviet Union. When I rode there on a bike for a month in 1990, we would stop and pick fruit for our lunches from the “Communiist” road side fruit trees.
    I marveled at the wisdom of that at the time and have often shared that wisdom with friends.

    Beware, you may be deemed to be a communist if you do this.

  2. NB: this is a very long posting, perhaps inappropriate.

    Here in Philly we have pursued many aspects of sustainability that I never see cited, since our population loss over the past decades has reduced us to 5th largest American city (for *many* decades we were the third).

    But Greenbuild is coming to Philly Nov. 20 through 22, 2013!

    Some readers will remark on the advantages of this loss — same amount of land, streets, sewers, etc., but only two-thirds as many people to live scattered amongst them, on gap-toothed blocks of vacant land and houses, offices, plants, etc. A number of us, the dozens of sustainability activists, lobbied the city to get off its duff and somehow restore all that empty land to do what land is actually made for: cycling and purifying water, filtering debris from upstream overflows and from particles from the wind, feeding plant life into existence and thereby feeding both down and up the food chain…

    Our plans for this included neighborhood jobs maintaining these lands, planted with native grasses, wildflowers, woody shrubs and trees – each block an ecosystem.

    Fruiting trees would be planted (where horticulturally-ecologically suitable) along property edges and lining paths that cut through the block on new slightly rolling landscape, ‘paved’ with vegetative & food ‘waste’ — wood chips, clam shells, raked up gravel, etc.. Now the city has finally embraced this decades–old project, which became city-wide and organized as the Philly Orchard Project.

    To get here took several more years after arrival of a unique individual: Paul Glover. He is widely known as the originator of the “Ithaca Dollar” alt currency, just a few years after we, some of Ithaca’s urban fabric activists, brought the permanent State Street Mall into existence (fighting a growing exodus of shoppers’ dollars to peripheral hiway shopping malls). Ah, the exuberant seventies!!

    In Philly Glover structured the grassroots interests into a nonprofit w connections to Councilpeople, state legislators, US congressmen, other local NGO leaders etc. whoever he thought would strengthen his project — backed by a host of advocates who were in ACTION, already planting and watering and talking and not waiting around for officialdom.

    But unlike the way that the NYT story characterized the urban orchards as “guerilla” gardeners, Philadelphia’s was brought into being by making it into a joint venture with the city — a public-private partnership, as they say. Here is just a sampling of the Times’ coverage of this urban fruit tree / vacant land matter over the past decade:

    Greedy Gardeners –
    Jun 14, 2013 – The activists campaigning for urban farms should not forget the … It’s not the orchards themselves that irk me — it’s the shortsightedness they …

    ‘Fruit Activists’ Take Urban Gardens in a New Direction –…/fruit-activists-take-urban-gardens-in-a-new-direction….
    May 11, 2013 – Newer arrivals include “urban space hackers” like the Guerrilla Grafters … New orchards are springing up in other cities, too, including Chicago …

    Backyards, Beware: An Orchard Wants Your Spot – New York Times
    Mar 13, 2008 – In an era of local food, an increasing number of Americans are turning their yards into mini orchards, even in dense urban areas.

    Replacing Neglect With Peach Trees – New York Times
    Sep 2, 2007 – Building on local tradition, the Philly Orchard Project’s leaders hope to emulate longstanding urban orchard projects in other American cities.

    Apples With Pedigrees Selling in Urban Edens – The New York Times › Dining & Wine
    Oct 20, 2004 – Apples With Pedigrees Selling in Urban Edens … POVERTY LANE ORCHARDS’ “uncommon apples” are sold for $1.99 to $3 a pound in the …


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