March 10, 2010

Spring Gleaning

There's a nice article in USA Today about a new generation of public urban orchards, ripe for the picking:
Fruit-picking opportunities... are becoming more common, as volunteers in cities including Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia and Madison, Wis., mobilize behind a goal of planting fruit trees on public land in city parks and neighborhoods.

"This is part of what's obviously been an explosion in interest in locally grown and organic food," said Janet Parker, a founding member of a group called Madison Fruits and Nuts. "I think we're coming to realize more and more that it doesn't make any sense, at this late date with climate change being what it is, to truck in so much of our food from California, in the cases of apples, sometimes New Zealand."

Free fruit also is available for picking in season on public land in Chicago, San Francisco, Austin, Minneapolis and New York, according to, a site that helps people track down available fruit.

One of the compelling points in Sharon Astyk's A Nation of Farmers involves her observation that we've been trained to see "free" food as having minimal actual value-- we're better off buying our fruit in the store than gleaning from what's available around us.

But that's why this urban orchard movement is so compelling -- it's another way to bring the reality of food production closer to home for millions of urban residents. Also, note the shout-out the article gives to the Philadelphia Orchard Project, which has started 17 orchards in the Philly area in the last 3 years.

Oh, and for the rest of you wanting to find your nearest gleaning opportunity, there's an app for that.

Photo credit: Muffet

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