As well as nascent re-emergence of the the ‘back-to-the land’ movement, there’s also a parallel ‘back-to-my-tiny-city-plot-or-planter’ movement. People are increasingly moving beyond a few tomato plants and some herbs in some pots, and are increasingly putting in gardens, even orchards, in sometimes truly tiny spaces. In addition to the older, established city fruit trees, more city gardeners are branching out into orchards, as a recent New York Times article demonstrates. Fruit tree sales have increased substantially, around 12 to 15% annually, as more people plant mini-orchards. While that’s not exactly an overnight transformation of each patch of yard in cities into orchards, it’s a big step towards not only delicious and local food, but also neighborliness, as people have more extra fruit to share.
Who is going to eat all of this fruit? Fruit trees, like zucchini plants, can make a lot of food.
Several small groups have sprung up, mostly in California, which make community maps of publicly accessible fruit trees. These maps enable people to go harvest some fruit that would otherwise have gone to waste. The first to articulate these ideas and provide maps (including the above map) is a group called Fallen Fruit, a Los Angeles-based “activist art project.” They encourage “everyone to harvest, plant and sample public fruit, which is what we call all fruit on or overhanging public spaces such as sidewalks, streets, or parking lots.” Their guidelines on the maps for harvesting public fruit are to “take only what you need; say ‘hi’ to strangers; share your food; take a friend; go by foot.”
Jamie Juantara has also made an excellent map of Echo Park, complete with a color-coded key to identify the various types of tress.
Languishing fruit trees are also being put to good use by Village Harvest, a nonprofit suburban harvesting cooperative based in the Santa Clara Valley. They schedule regular harvesting of fruit trees in the Santa Clara Area, helping homeowners with too much fruit on their hands channel that extra fruit to local anti-hunger organizations. Village Harvest also provides education on fruit tree care, harvesting, and food preservation.