City Fruit Programs
Urban Fruit Harvest
Each year, with the help of about 50 volunteers and 4 paid staff, we harvest fruit trees in three Seattle neighborhoods, donating most of the fruit to nonprofits serving low income Seattle residents. We sell a portion of the fruit to underwrite the harvest costs. In 2012 we harvested more than 18,000 pounds of fruit that would have otherwise gone to waste. This local, nutritious food is an essential component of the local food system and it would otherwise go to waste. Through our efforts, it benefits the clients of food banks, shelters, meals programs, clinics and senior centers.
Helping the Community Grow Fruit
With the right care, fruit trees can produce healthy fruit for many years. City Fruit partners with local nurseries to offer a series of free fruit tree care classes in west Seattle and the Madison Valley. Topics include pruning, grafting, fruit preservation, bee keeping, and organic pest prevention. We maintain an online calendar of fruit tree-related classes and events in the Puget Sound region, provide downloadable fact sheets on fruit tree care, teach P Patch gardeners how to care for fruit trees in community gardens, teach cider making and loan our cider press to community groups, and collaborate with community orchards like the Beacon Food Forest.
Urban Fruit Tree Stewards
We partner with Seattle Parks & Recreation, the Seattle Office of Sustainability and the United Way to plant new fruit trees in urban spaces, care for existing fruit trees, and train volunteer orchard stewards. We currently work in eight Seattle Parks and additional gardens/orchards and have developed a sustainable, volunteer-based steward program. We recruit and train volunteers, coordinate between the stewards and public sector agencies, and orchestrate systems for sharing the fruit grown on community properties.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Urban Fruit Tree Stewards
We are working with Seattle Parks & Recreation to expand the orchard steward program beyond the initial eight parks. Through this program we train neighborhood volunteers to care for and harvest fruit trees that grow in public parks. In 2012, steward groups held cider pressing events in four different parks. On the Burke-Gilman Trail, for example, the orchard stewards mounted a hand-operated cider press and pressed apples from a tree growing along the trail. Bicyclists, walkers and joggers stopped to sample the cider and learn more about the historic orchard bordering the trail. In 2013, with support from the state Department of Natural Resources, we will be producing more maps, signs and public education materials about these orchards.
Support for the Harvest
While we currently harvest fruit in three Seattle neighborhoods, picking 18,000 pounds in 2012, this is the tip of the iceberg. We need financial support for our harvest efforts, since harvest costs are nearly $1 per pound. In 2013 we plan to increase efficiencies and rescue even more fruit through such strategies as having a drop off site so residents can pick their own trees and drop off the fruit; collaborating more closely with food banks to put fruit into their natural distribution systems; using online registrations for tree owners and volunteers; and developing markets for a portion of the fruit.