Seeing the Trees and the Forest

This is part two in my response to comments made on the post “Making Eating Public.” The first post looked at reframing the idea of guerrilla gardening to consider ways of taking advantage of what already exists in the community around us through “guerrilla harvesting” or urban fruit gleaning.

The second point Dave pondered in his comments was about how the Community Supported Agriculture Model might be applied to orchards. I have always dreamed of eventually having a small orchard and so this idea was really intriguing to me.

It turns out there are some models of people trying to combine the CSA model with an orchard. This article reports on one orchard owner in New York State who had to invest more than$50,000 in a new irrigation system and found himself strapped for cash to run the orchard. So he turned to his community. “At Liberty View Farm, you can rent your own tree and harvest its organic apples without having to do any messy work like pruning, spraying, or watering,” states the article. Another model is based on a monthly fee structure.

However, perhaps because I was still thinking about urban agriculture when I read Dave’s comments, I began wondering about urban orchards. Would it be possible to manage an active orchard in a city? There are a number of people trying to do just that. Check out these examples from Australia, Texas, and Washington.

However, by focusing too much on fruit, we risk missing the forest for the trees, as the saying goes. Most people think of cities as devoid of forests (save places like Central Park), however each year a forest worth of trees disappear from our urban centers. For example, more than 9,000 trees die each year in Toronto. “The end of a city trees life usually involves a chipper or woodstove. Not a suitable ending for such a valuable natural resource,” argues Urban Tree Salvage. “A better use for these wonderful trees would be to turn them into a usable products such as lumber and furniture.” Imagine a widespread urban forestry program which trains local people in communities across the country how to care for the trees in their community, to plant more trees, salvage the wood from trees that much be taken down, build furniture from the wood, and manage small business to sell and use the wood. And now imagine if this started with children and teens as an apprenticeship program like Youth Build.

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