This organization aims to reclaim the urban orchard and protect fruit trees in the city as a valuable community resource.
Starting about mid-summer, and running all the way through autumn, many suburban and city neighborhoods are full of fruit trees just loaded with fruit, which, if you're like me and really enjoy free fresh local food, is a beautiful sight.
But all too often, just a few weeks later, those same neighborhoods are now full of fallen fruit, which is not only a waste of good food, but which also starts to rot and attract a lot of insects and rodents, creating an unsightly mess. Whether it's because the people who live in homes with mature fruit trees don't know what to do with all of that fruit, or they don't really eat fruit (true story), these fruit trees can end up being seen as a nuisance instead of a resource, which is a shame. After all, trees that are old enough, and hardy enough, to thrive and set fruit even after years of neglect, can produce huge crops that can go a long way toward bridging the hunger gap for many people who live nearby.
Some initiatives addressing the issue have sprouted up in recent years, such as Fallen Fruit and Falling Fruit (yes, they're different), have been helping to map urban fruit trees on both public and private property. Other organizations seek to transform this so-called waste into a feast, which can be incredibly fruitful, if you'll pardon the pun.
One such organization, City Fruit, harvested almost 28,000 pounds of unused fruit from Seattle's urban fruit trees last year, and donated some 22,000 lbs to 39 different local groups, including food banks, schools, and community organizations.
"2014 was a record-breaking year for City Fruit. In total, we harvested over 27,948 pounds of unused fruit from residential properties in the South Seattle/Beacon Hill, West Seattle, Phinney-Greenwood, Wallingford, and Ballard neighborhoods." - City Fruit
That fruit came from only five neighborhoods in the city, but it's still a heck of a lot of fruit that would otherwise go to waste, and I can't help but imagine how much these urban orchards could yield every year if programs such as this one were in place across the country.
According to an article in Seattle Weekly, these fruit donations during the summer come at a very good time for those who rely on food banks, especially the youth:
"If you have a young man or woman who doesn’t have the structure of school, who is going through the day hungry in their city, they are more likely to make poor decisions than they are when they have a place to go and something to eat. These are the kids that really need stuff that comes from City Fruit. They need apples and pears; they need fresh produce because those are easy to take with them to soccer practice or to have a snack to make up for the potential meals they’re missing." - Miguel Jimenez of the Rainier Valley Food Bank
Along with the volunteer program at City Fruit, which coordinates the picking, sorting, and delivering of "uber-local fruit," the organization also runs a Master Fruit Tree Steward Program and hosts "Prune-a-thon" pruning workshops. It also offers all sorts of free resources on its website, including guides to growing fruit and organizing an urban fruit harvest, and you can also stay in the loop with City Fruit through Facebook and Twitter.