Summer is finally upon us and City Fruit is excited to announce a new, creative way to get involved with us this year!
The City Fruit Ambassador Program is a year long opportunity to use your skills, passions, and connections to be the voice and face of City Fruit in the neighborhood of your choice. City Fruit is looking for Ambassadors in the five neighborhoods where we currently work — Ballard, Phinney/Greenwood, South Seattle, Wallingford, and West Seattle.
For example, say you live in Ballard and really love the idea of attending some neighborhood volunteer harvests with City Fruit. You could take your involvement a step further and instead of volunteering with City Fruit during an occasional Ballard volunteer harvest, you can be a City Fruit Ambassador and lead a monthly volunteer harvest with a few neighbors/friends in Ballard. City Fruit would support you in your endeavors by providing you with everything necessary to make your time as an Ambassador a success!
Here’s another, non-harvest related example of what you could do as a City Fruit Ambassador. Perhaps you live in Wallingford and are heavily involved with your local Parent Teacher Organization. As an Ambassador, you could speak at monthly meetings that you already attend or write a blog post or two about what City Fruit has been doing in the Wallingford neighborhood.
There’s a hundred different ways to get involved as a City Fruit Ambassador, and we look forward to hearing your unique ideas and working with you to make this a successful and rewarding program! To apply, click here. Remember, applications for the City Fruit Ambassador Program are due by Friday, August 1.
Fruit trees remind us of our agricultural past and continue to be an important community resource. To date, City Fruit has harvested more than 50,000 pounds of fruit from residential trees and donated it to those who otherwise couldn’t afford fresh produce. Keeping these urban fruit trees healthy is a priority.
In 2014 City Fruit will launch a new Master Fruit Tree Steward Program with support from the King Conservation District Community Partnership Program. City Fruit will train lay fruit tree experts who can, in turn, teach their neighbors—an efficient and effective way to improve the health and productively of urban fruit trees.
In this train-the-trainer program volunteers will participate in workshops, field trips, and mentoring sessions on fruit tree care in exchange for providing hands-on support and mentoring to Seattle residents who live on properties with fruit trees. The 2014 goals include designing the curriculum, producing videos and slide shows, training an initial cohort of volunteer stewards, and creating a business model that is replicable and self-supporting.
Workshops will run from July – Dec 2014. Anyone interested in joining the project to become a Master Fruit Tree Steward should contact email@example.com by May 15.
Three years ago you couldn’t see the fruit trees nestled at the bottom of a hill just west of the old Amazon headquarters on north Beacon Hill. Looking down, it was blackberries and brambles. This neglected piece of Dr. Jose Rizal Park caught the eye of Craig Thompson, who was working with the Green Seattle Partnership and others to remove invasives from the adjoining woods. Craig turned his attention to the apples.
This October, three years later, the orchard produced 500 pounds of apples of several varieties. Neighbors and stewards picked 300 pounds for a cider pressing to benefit the Rainier Valley Pre-school. Don Ricks, who has been working on heritage orchards in several Seattle parks, says that the Dr. Jose Rizal Park orchard has turned around faster than any he has seen.
In recognition of Craig’s leadership in turning an unsightly bramble patch into a productive orchard, he has been selected to receive a 2012 Denny Award by the Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation, Christopher Williams. Denny Awards recognize individuals who provide ‘leadership in enhancing and preserving parks. . . ‘ and demonstrate ‘ . . significant personal commitment of time and effort . . . ‘. Craig will be honored at a free dinner, open to the public, at Langston Hughes Community Center on Nov 29 (6 – 8 pm.)
As one of City Fruit’s orchard steward leads, Craig attended workshops on fruit tree care and recruited a team of stewards dedicated to Dr. Jose Rizal Park. His reach into the greater community is extensive: Craig brought large workparties of Filipino-American students, Earthcorps, Safeco and Fred Hutchinson volunteers, and students from Seattle Pacific, and he has collaborated closely with Parks Department staff to clear, prune, mulch, fence and harvest the orchard.
Every year, just when we think the harvest has ended, we get a call about a major harvest. This time, it was for grapes. A new homeowner discovered that the entire back fence of her yard is covered in grape vines. After giving tons away to her neighbors and picking more than she could eat by herself, she heard about City Fruit.
Two volunteers picked over 100 pounds of grapes from this Seattle back yard!
People in Seattle tend to think we don’t have the climate for grapes, but it’s clear we do. I planted Canadice grapes in my yard two years ago and am looking forward to getting grapes next year. Variety is important–it’s best to choose varieties that ripen early. That’s your best chance for a harvest in Seattle. Ask at your favorite nursery or fruit tree specialist store for recommendations.
We get asked a lot, “My neighbors have a beautiful fruit tree that they never harvest, what should I do?” Sometimes it’s more like, “I WOULD have great fruit if only my neighbors wouldn’t leave THEIRS to rot all over the ground!” or “They have this tree that hangs out over the sidewalk and and drops fruit everywhere so no one can get by and it gets all over your car and shoes and…”
Calm down people! Here’s what to do: First, take a deep breath. Remember this nugget of wisdom: People aren’t lazy, they’re exhausted. Your neighbors are probably too busy to even think about that fruit, or maybe they see it in passing and think I should do something about that… but they’re already off to whatever’s next. But that’s why City Fruit exists. We take all that fruit that people are too busy for, and give it to people who really need it, meanwhile, cleaning up your rotting fruit problem!
Now it’s time to talk to your neighbors, and it’s best to be prepared. Find out ahead of time who to contact, and write it down. I’ll make it easy for you:
Think about what to say. We reccomend keeping it positive, leaving out your annoyance altogether, and focusing on helping people in need. Here’s a script:
“I noticed you have a fruit tree in your yard that isn’t fully harvested. I wanted to let you know about an organization called City Fruit that harvests neighborhood fruit trees and donates the produce to organizations in Seattle that help people in need. Would you be interested in that? I wrote down the email address here.”
This could go a couple of ways:
“That’s great! We’ve been so busy lately.” Good job, you’ve rescued the fruit! Make some small talk. Maybe check in a week later, since they’re busy people and may have forgotten.
“How does it work?” It’s OK if you don’t know the details. Here’s the basics: We scout the tree to see when it’s ripe, then organize a volunteer work party. The owner can decide to be there or not, and we schedule harvests daytime, evenings, and weekends. We can leave a small box of fruit at the owner’s request. For other questions, they can check out our website or just contact the harvest coordinator directly.
“I’m the last person in the world without a computer” (I don’t mean that out of sarcasm, that’s just always what people say.) Offer to contact us for them. Write down their phone number, send it to us explaining the circumstances, and we’ll give them a call.
“I can harvest it, I just can’t use it!” They can take donations to the food bank themselves. See our website for a list of donation sites. Also consider exchanging some fruit, or other goods, if you’d like a taste of some of that fruit! We’ve heard of neighbors setting up an exchange so that everyone gets one box of plums, one of apples, one of pears, etc. You could even hold a canning party to make some jams for everyone.
“I can use it, I just can’t harvest it!” PNA members can check out an orchard ladder from the tool library. Or maybe you have one to share!
“Bah! I can let ‘em rot if I want!” I do mean that out of sarcasm. People probably won’t say that, but it’s possible. If so, don’t push it. You can’t win ‘em all. If there’s really a mess on the sidewalk or street, you could offer to clean it up. You could report it to the city too, since residents have a responsibility to keep the sidewalk clear, but that might result in the loss of the tree, so consider carefully.
If they’re not home, try again or leave a note, but be sure to sign it. If they realize it’s coming from a friendly neighbor, they’re much more likely to follow through.
Thanks for caring so much about harvesting fruit! We find that folks often just don’t know what to do with a fruit tree. Once they see it harvested, they start to see it as good food, which leads to taking caring of the tree and harvesting it. Good luck!
I have to admit, I was caught off-guard Friday when I checked the weather forecast and saw little suns on nearly every day of this week. We finally got some sunny weather, although it won’t be warm enough to lure out many pollinators for our fruit trees that are blooming already (see Don’s report below). The sun was certainly enough to lure out the people though, and the packed weekend farmer’s markets proves it.
I visited my new garden plot on Sunday, and I was almost as pleased to see my garden neighbors as I was to see my peas coming up. Lots of people were digging, planting and enjoying the sun this weekend in our community garden and in P-patches and yards—front and back—all over the city. I also got to chat with one of the leaders of our brand-new community garden, and she stressed the importance of donating some of the produce to food banks and meal programs. We have two plots devoted to producing food for donation, and after our conversation, we’re going to make sure other gardeners know how to donate extra food, which of course inspired me to let our blog readers know!
Our friends at Lettuce Link (a program of Solid Ground) coordinate the “veggie side of things,” so hop on over to their website if you need some more resources. Here’s some tips for donation this summer:
If you garden in a P-Patch, you may already have a donation program. If you do, connect with the volunteers in charge of it, because organizing with other gardeners makes the whole process more efficient.
If your P-Patch doesn’t have a donation program set up, contact Lettuce Link to find out how.
Plant an extra row. Food banks and meal programs prefer large amounts of one thing, if that’s feasible. If you’re planting at home, you can coordinate with neighbors to harvest the same crop at the same time for donation.
Many of the places listed on the City Fruit website for growing fruit will be happy to accept whatever comes from your garden. Lettuce Link has created an updated list for 2011.
You may want to contact the program you are growing for before you plant. Find out what they need most and how to drop off the food when the time comes.
Donate within 24 hours of harvesting, so that the produce will be at the peak of freshness.
Tell people about it! Put up a sign in your garden that explains you’re growing for donation.
Graph from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
Global food prices are soaring again, after a huge spike in 2007-08 and the subsequent a drop during the global recession. While you may or may not feel the effects on your grocery bills—NY Times points out that global commodity prices don’t have a lot to do with prices in American supermarkets—the spike should spark some discussion of how we can increase our community resiliency in the face of rising food prices in the future.
The 2008 increase in prices sparked riots and general social unrest in developing countries. In developed countries, we’re probably looking at a more subtle effect of decreasing nutritional standards as low-income people make trade-off choices in the types of food they buy or between food, rent, and basic utilities. Rising food prices will only increase the income disparity in health and nutrition.
By strengthening our local food system, we start to insulate ourselves from global price trends. Some people are feeling the effects of rising prices right now, and City Fruit and similar groups like Lettuce Link and Clean Greens Market help them to keep fruit and veggies in their diet. In the long term though, food prices will affect a much larger number of people in our community. Right now, City Fruit and other urban agriculture groups are doing two very important things to help build local resiliency:
First, we’re creating local safety nets to ensure that all members of our community have access to fresh produce. Sharing home-grown fruit and veggies with food banks will help keep those food banks stocked even when global commodity prices are rising. Plus, if federal food benefits get maxed out, we can still provide for our neighbors with what we grow right here in the neighborhood. Creating these systems right now means they’ll still be in place during a food crisis.
Second, we’re building skills to produce more food locally. Instead of relying on industrial farms in California for fruits and veggies, more people will be able to grow their own in yards, balconies and p-patches for a fraction of the price. Also, by helping people learn to process home-grown food for storage, we’ll be able to make the local harvest last through the year.
Resiliency isn’t an easy topic for a lot of people—in part because we have to acknowledge the possibility of global crises in our lifetimes—but groups like Transition Towns are opening up the discussion. The good news is that building resilient communities has a lot to do with building community generally and doing things that actually make us happier. We feel that a lot at City Fruit: we’re bringing neighbors together to harvest fruit, and people are picking up fun new hobbies like canning and gardening that also build self-sufficiency.
If you’re interested in exploring local resiliency more, check out this event: Tomorrow (Tuesday, January 11), Transition Seattle is holding a screening of “The Economics of Happiness” that explores the theme of economic localization and how it can improve our happiness. In the meantime, think about learning a new skill, whether it’s food-related or not, that helps you and the community become more resiliant.
As part of their Seattle reLeaf program, the City of Seattle is giving away more trees this year — including one variety of fruit tree, the Italian Plum (which is my favorite). The hope is to get 1,000 trees to residents to plant in their yards which will help the city achieve it’s 30% tree canopy goal.
If you live in one of the neighborhoods listed below, you need to get an application in by September 13. The city is specifically targetting South Seattle neighborhoods this year and the following are eligable to apply:
North Beacon Hill/Jefferson Park
South Beacon Hill/New Holly
There is no need to apply as a group, so individual houses can apply. Trees may be planted along the street or in your yard — keep in mind the fruit tree can’t be planted along the street and needs to go in your yard. There is a limit of 4 per household. The program participants will recieve:
If you don’t happen to live in one of the neighborhoods listed above, you can still get free trees from the city — but time is running out. The Department of Neighborhoods Tree Fund provides free street trees to groups of 5 or more neighbors working together anywhere in Seattle. Groups can request 10 to 40 trees. But the applications are due Monday, August 16 — so get your application in now!
I’ve seen a few different things going around the web recently about how you can get your hands on a free fruit tree so I thought I’d help share them here with some additional info about caring for trees. Keep in mind that there are strings attached to getting one of these free fruit trees — but in both cases below, it’s that the trees are used for the good of the community. Can hardly argue with that.
“… a nonprofit charity dedicated to planting edible, fruitful trees and plants to benefit the environment and all its inhabitants. Our primary mission is to plant and help others plant a collective total of 18 billion fruit trees across the world (approximately 3 for every person alive) and encourage their growth under organic standards.”
In order to help them achieve their 3 fruit trees per person, they’re giving away a ton of fruit trees. They have a couple different ways in which you can get them:
Submit a project idea to their Communities Take Root contest(in partnership with Dreyer’s Fruit Bars). Then the community gets to vote on which projects receive free fruit trees.
Seattle Department of Neighborhoods
Sorry non-Seattle folks, this one is strictly for the Seattle residents — but it’s worth checking to see if your city offers a similar program.
The Tree Fund provides trees to neighborhoods to “enhance Seattle’s urban forest”. If you & your neighbors get together you can receive 10-40 trees for your community, as well as one fruit tree for yourself (one per household). Your project must be able to demonstrate the capacity to build a stronger, healthier community.
Seattle’s Tree Fund doesn’t do the planting of trees until the fall, which is the perfect time to plant new trees — the temperature is cooler, they’ll get plenty of water. I’m not sure when you’d get the trees from the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, but I’d recommend waiting until the summer has passed.
It’s not always easy to know where a fruit tree will do well in a yard — that’s why we’ve put some very useful info up on our website. And don’t forget caring for the fruit tree. It’s not hard, but it does require some know-how and effort. But City Fruit is here to help.
And because I’m a visual learner, I really get the most out of watching someone do something rather than reading about it. For those of you like that out there, here’s a handy video on how to plant a fruit tree.
Now go get yourself & your community some fruit trees and start helping build your city’s urban orchard with a great local food source.
As a follow up to my post about the historic Piper Orchard, I thought I would focus on a slightly newer orchard — Brandon Street Orchard in the Hillman City neighborhood. If you’re not familiar with that neighborhood, you can find a map here.
Things got started in 2004 when a group of neighbors were awarded a Department of Neighborhoods Small & Simple Matching Grant for about $8,000. That might seem like a lot of money but that price tag included the purchase of the land from King County, getting rid of the blackberries that were there, hooking up the water meter, bringing in good soil, purchasing & planting of trees, etc. That initial investment got things going.
A couple years later, another Small & Simple Matching Grant helped with the purchase of the materials for the garden shed, some additional plants, and apparently a cider press — which is a great investment for any orchard that has a significant number of apples.
Because it’s such a new orchard, there is little history behind it. However, the community seems very involved in the orchard with a number of garden tours, work parties, and the like all dedicated to the upkeep of this urban orchard.
1. It fosters a sense of independence. Growing things poses tangible problems that are fun to figure out.
2. It’s fun and meditative.
3. It pays for itself quickly and saves you money. (A dwarf apple tree may produce about 15 lbs. of apples in the third planting year. 15lbs. X $2.00 per pound (2006 prices) means the fruit is worth $30. You can graft and grow your own trees for as little as $5 each or purchase them from many high quality nurseries for about $30. They will go on to produce quite a bit more fruit every year thereafter.)
4. Locally grown fruit tastes much, much better than fruit from a supermarket.
5. You, your children and the environment will all benefit from less exposure to chemicals if you garden organically.
6. It may make you popular during a catastrophe like an earthquake!
7. It brings you outdoors and encourages you to commune with the natural world.
8. Kids and neighbors think you are interesting. (My neighbor kids bought my surplus plums and resold them from a table at the end of their driveway. They paid me 10 cents per plum, picked them all and sold them for 30 cents each over a few hours and walked away with about $20. It was a quick lesson in capitalism.)
9. Homegrown fruit makes great gifts. I just received some homemade blackberry jam, and I enjoy it more than a mass produced product. It feels special.
10. It’s satisfying to do something tangible with living things!
Seattle residents can apply for free apple and cherry trees under a new pilot program of the City of Seattle’s 2009 Tree Fund. The fruit trees can be planted in residential yards (sorry, not along streets).
The Tree Fund, a component of the Neighborhood Matching Fund, provides trees to neighborhood groups to enhance the City’s urban forest. The City provides the trees, and
neighbors share the work of planting and caring for the trees. Tree Fund projects are a great way to build a stronger sense of community. The fruit tree component is new in 2009.
Written by: Jana Dilley, Urban Forestry Outreach, Office of Sustainability & Environment, City of Seattle
Trees are an essential element of any city, and Seattle – the Emerald City – is no exception. The City of Seattle’s reLeaf Program works to get people excited about planting and caring for urban trees on private property, in city parks, in forest stands, and along streets. Growing the urban forest is important because trees provide many benefits, including:
Better health and stronger communities – Cities with tree-lined streets are more walkable. Walking, in turn, creates opportunities to meet neighbors and practice a more active—and healthy—lifestyle.
Reduced stormwater runoff – Trees trap raindrops and slow stormwater runoff, reducing the risk of flooding. Seattle’s urban forest saves an estimated $20 million a year in stormwater management costs.
Cleaner air and reduced greenhouse gases – Trees capture pollution from the air and absorb carbon dioxide, the key greenhouse gas emitted by cars. Children living near trees may be less prone to asthma.
Healthier wildlife – Trees provide wildlife habitat and help protect salmon streams.
The City of Seattle’s 2007 Urban Forest Management Plan provides a long-term vision for increasing tree canopy cover—that is, the percent of the city covered by trees as seen in an aerial view. The Plan seeks to increase Seattle’s canopy cover to 30 percent. Currently, Seattle’s canopy cover is lower than cities such as New York (24 percent) and Portland (26 percent). The Plan promotes such projects as planting more trees on city-owned property and helping residents plant and care for trees on their own properties.
The Tree Fund, a component of the Neighborhood Matching Fund, provides free trees to neighborhood groups to enhance the City’s urban forest. The City provides the trees, and neighbors share the work of planting and maintaining them. .
Much of Seattle’s 3,000 acres of forested parkland is in decline from invasive plants like English ivy and blackberry. To protect these spaces, the City has partnered with the Cascade Land Conservancy and Seattle residents to create the Green Seattle Partnershipwith the goal of restoring 2,500 acres of forested parkland by 2025. Volunteers remove invasive plants and plant native trees and understory plants. Events happen every week year round; to join an event in your neighborhood check out www.greenseattle.org/volunteers.
Do you have daytime availability, are itching to start harvesting fruit trees, and want to make a difference in your community? Ride along with one of our staff harvesters to learns the ins and outs of urban fruit tree harvesting for half a day! For more information, contact Melanie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Celebrate Northwest Cider's Washington Cider Week this September by attending a Town Hall Seattle talk on "The Apples you Never Knew About." Only $5! Buy your tix here: http://www.townhallseattle.org/rowan-jacobsen-and-clare-barboza-with-langdon-cook-the-apples-you-never-knew-about/Rowan Jacobsen and Clare Barboza with Langdon Cook: The Apples
Too many apples on Meridian’s historic trees We need helpers to collect fallen apples at Meridian Playground. This is a bumper crop year for fruit, and the apple trees, planted soon after the Good Shepherd[...]