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Guerrilla Grafters: Turning street trees into fruit trees

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on August 2nd, 2012

Source: The Atlantic Cities

 

From “Should Public Trees Bear Fruit?” by Amy Biegelsen:

There’s a block in San Francisco that will soon be blossoming with cherries, plums and pears, but Tara Hui will not say where. That’s because she’s worried that backlash from city officials or unsympathetic citizens will halt the progress she and her fellow Guerrilla Grafters have made splicing fruit-bearing branches on to city trees.

Grafting trees is as simple as cutting a branch from one kind of tree and sticking it into a notch in another, securing it with sturdy tape and hoping that the new branch thrives. It’s as old as the Bible and widely used today in industrial agriculture.

Hui hopes the method will help bring food to under-served parts of the city like her neighborhood, Visitacion Valley, which she says is basically a food desert.

“There’s a lot of discussion about what kind of policy we need to get businesses to come to this neighborhood to sell fresh produce or even organic,” she says. Over the years she’s advocated for bringing fruit trees into the city’s urban forestry mix. “If all goes well it might even spawn some kind of cottage industry like canning or jamming,” she says.

But first things first.

Her campaign with city agencies hadn’t drawn any takers, “so finally out of frustration I thought why not just do it, and do it responsibly, and that could be a case to convince them,” she says. About a year ago, the Guerrilla Grafters were born as a horizontally organized band of fellow agro-activists who wanted to help sew{sic} an urban orchard.

Hui sees maintaining data as a key element of the project. “It’s difficult to counter an argument without any data to disprove it,” she says. The grafters are working on a mapping application with data on tree type and location in hopes that the citizen science will bolster their project and any future negotiating they may need to do.

[…]

Hui points out that the group is careful to only splice into locations where a volunteer has offered to monitor and maintain the tree, “so it really comes to us rather than us going out looking for it,” she says. Volunteers are watching in neighborhoods from the Sunnydale housing projects to the tony Hayes Valley, vigilant against a pest infestation that could spoil the pilot program.

Read the full article by Amy Biegelsen or visit the Guerrilla Grafters site.