Money doesn’t grow on trees, but the excess fruit from a neighbor’s yard can make your diet richer and it won’t cost a dime. Shouldn’t we share the wealth?
That’s the thinking of Neighborhood Fruit, created by San Francisco urban farmers to reduce the tragic waste of fruit, which is forbidden in their vision of sustainability. Their website lets subscribers find and share fruit locally both in backyards and on public lands.
Since planting the seed in June, they’ve attracted between 3,000 and 5,000 visitors a month and located a total of 10,000 trees nationwide and growing.
Much of the fruit the nation consumes is grown in water-intensive orchards far from our homes and shipped at the high cost of fuel. Instead, co-founder Kaytea Petro sees a future where the bulk of seasonal backyard fruit is utilized and shared between neighbors for snacking, baking, putting up organic preserves, even setting up a lemonade stand – any good uses you might have for the bounty.
“I first thought of the idea when I lived on Bernal Hill and my neighbor had an apple tree with a lot of excess fruit that she would never share,” says Petro, who decided to refine the fruit network notion for her graduate thesis at the Presidio School of Management, where she received an MBA in sustainable business.
“We’re a nationwide tool that helps people connect locally,” says Petro. “The typical user is someone with a plum tree who knows what a pain it is when the fruit comes in because it all comes in at once. Those seeking the fruit are into making pies and jams or to show their city kids where food comes from.”
The mechanics of connecting are simple. I register my lemons and oranges and when the fruit arrives, I put out the word on the site. “Come and get it!” I decide if I want to pick it myself or have interested takers come over with their bushels to help pick what they want.
It seems to be attracting those who don’t want to go through the red tape of becoming a registered producer who sells at the farmers’ market, the only way to sell fruit legally.
“It can be a lot of paperwork,” observes Petro, who adds that 25% of her users are people with fruit trees. And for obvious reasons, those with trees in L.A., Miami and Austin see more of a year-round yield than those in Boston and Seattle.
In addition to making connections, Petro and co-founder, Oriana Sarac, manage a monthly newsletter, The Grapevine, featuring the voices of gardeners, bee keepers and other experts in the field, as well as a blog for sharing timely articles, recipes and success stories.
They call their neighbor fruit sharing network Fruitfillment. Anyone who believes in this vision for making use of our abundance knows the ripe concept is fulfilling a mission, indeed.