Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Imagine if our street trees gave us food... Grafting guerrillas make street trees productive on the sly

 Having trees in our streets is good for many reasons:
  • They provide habitat.
  • They clean and cool the air and provide shade.
  • They make our city easier on the eye.
  • They add character.
Councils don't really plant trees for food though. I've heard a few reasons thrown around (e.g. the food attracts insects or rodents or could present a slip hazard) but I'm not aware of any evidence-based policies on this (if you are, please share them).

In Moreland (and other boroughs around Melbourne) public spaces you'll find lots of olive trees, the occasional fruit tree and (as far as I know) one community orchard (well, food forest in waiting really). You'll also sometimes see people traipsing along the streets with ladders and buckets to harvest the olive trees or wandering through the food forest picking apples or figs. People eat the food that these trees make.

It's challenging to secure land for more traditional urban agriculture projects like community gardens but imagine if even 10% of our street trees produced food...

The Guerrilla Grafters of San Francisco decided if they couldn't get their council to plant productive trees, they could make them productive anyway (the even came up with ways to placate the council).
"[They]graft fruit bearing branches onto non-fruit bearing, ornamental fruit trees. Over time, delicious, nutritious fruit is made available to urban residents through these grafts. [Their] web application helps grafters to find graftable trees, to track how grafts are doing, and helps to facilitate gleaning of fruit."
Check out this video about their work and ponder the possibilities for food security and food miles and imagine how cool it would be to grab a couple of apples off a tree on the footpath to take to work with you each day or to put in your kids' lunch box.

How can we get more productive trees in our streets?

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