Urban fruit has the potential to impact our local food system.
In Seattle, abandoned orchards are considered a valuable resource. At the American Community Gardening Conference in Seattle in August 2013 I learned about City Fruit, an organization that harvests those resources on both public and private land for the benefit of the community. City Fruit believes that much fruit in the community goes to waste because people do not know how to suitably care for their fruit trees, how to harvest them and what to do with the fruit once they have it.
City Fruit hosts several activities to accomplish reaping the benefits of Seattle’s less-than-cared-for fruit trees. First, they have a wide variety of information on how to properly grow, prune and harvest fruit trees for beginner orchardists. They also have recipes posted on their website on how to cook with fruit and how to preserve it. Additionally they hold cooking and preserving classes, along with workshops on how to prune fruit trees and keep pests away from that luscious fruit.
A unique program of City Fruit is to map fruit trees in the city. Their goals in mapping fruit trees are to preserve the tree canopy and potential fruit resource, to build community, to steward urban orchards, share harvests and help policymakers realize the importance of the urban fruit resource.
City Fruit also received a grant from Washington State Department of Natural Resources in cooperation with the US Forest Service to develop a community stewardship program to care for fruit trees in Seattle parks. They train volunteers with a three part curriculum to become a volunteer cadre of Orchard Stewards. City Fruit also pays workers to harvest the fruit from both private and public orchards to donate to local food pantries and sell to local restaurants to sustain their activities. This type of program may have potential for cities in Michigan and could make an impact on the local food system. For questions on taking care of small fruit and tree fruit, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.