Fruit Trees Go Public

Photo: Vahagn Karapetyan

You’ll have read about and possibly visited the public park orchard planted at Del Aire Park that opened last fall. It’s a Los Angeles County Arts Commission-sponsored project of the artist group Fallen Fruit, famous locally for their neighborhood maps of fruit-bearing trees accessible in public rights of way and the “fruit jams” they hold in L.A. museums and galleries. Like artist Fritz Haeg’s Edible Estates, the Del Aire Fruit Tree Park acquaints the neighborhood with the notion of growing food in front, where everyone can see it and, better, eat it.

A public park orchard? How wonderful for residents in notorious urban “food deserts,” especially those living in apartment buildings with no outdoor space. Whole neighborhoods can help care for an orchard right in the city, and benefit from the food growing in their own community.

Tree People is all for it. We have worked with local communities since 1984  giving away more than 100,000 fruit trees  so that Angelenos can enjoy their shade and beauty and, best of all, eat fresh, home-grown fruit. Family fruit tree giveaways this year alone resulted in 3,500 apple, apricot, nectarine, peach, and plum trees going to people’s yards (including apartments—some trees planted in pots will bear fruit!). In addition, TreePeople sponsors a year-round Public Orchard Program that distributes free fruit trees to school and community gardens and orchards. TreePeople supplies a wide variety of fruit tree species, and offers expertise in orchard design, support for community events, training, and education in fruit tree care. Public orchards can receive citrus, avocado, white sapote, cherimoya, loquat, persimmon, and other semi-tropical fruit trees.

This year TreePeople supported the planting of three public orchards on Inglewood Unified School District campuses. In one of these, more than 70 fruit trees were planted by volunteers in one day! We foresee working with at least 15 school campuses and 10 community gardens to provide trees and expertise in 2013.

As a work of art, the orchard at Del Aire Park lies somewhere between a formal community fruit tree program like TreePeople’s and a guerilla intervention akin to the Dudley Triangle in Venice, where on several occasions locals and visitors from Portland’s City repair Project have landscaped a neglected strip of median with climate-appropriate plants.

It bodes well that city-dwellers are reclaiming their food sources and at the same time contributing to the health of the urban environment.

For more information on the Fruit Tree Program, please contact Steve Hofvendahl at fruittree@treepeople.org or (818) 623-4865.

To donate to the Fruit Tree Program, please contact membership@treepeople.org or call (818) 753-4631.

Above: Students at Grant High School Orchard spread mulch around newly planted fruit trees. Photo: Vahagn Karapetyan

Carolyn Gray Anderson is an editor, writer, and nonprofit communications professional in Los Angeles. She volunteers regularly with Good Karma Gardens and at the Learning Garden at Venice High School, enjoying many a meal straight from the earth. She loves TreePeople almost as much as she loves trees.