I heard about a very exciting program that’s taking place in San Francisco while at last weeks Urban Ag Summit. In San Francisco it is illegal to have fruit trees overhanging sidewalks. The law is in place out of a fear of the danger of slippery fruit on busy sidewalks. This means that many non fruit producing fruit trees are planted in these areas. They provide beautiful blossoms that never fruit, much like the cherry trees in Toronto’s High Park.
To combat this law, and a lack of available fresh produce in many of San Francisco’s neighbourhoods, a renegade group has been covertly grafting fruit bearing branches onto these non fruit bearing trees. The Guerilla Grafters are motivated to cultivate fruit producing trees because of the absence of supermarkets and produce stores in their neighbourhoods. Each tree that is grafted is assigned a community steward who will care for the tree and make sure the fruit is enjoyed.
San Francisco, like Toronto and all North American cities, suffers from food deserts. The term food desert describes neighbourhoods and communities that have unsatisfactory access to fresh, affordable and nutritious food. By grafting fruit bearing branches onto city trees the Guerilla Grafters are allowing the tree to have multiple benefits for the people who live near them. What better way to fight food deserts than to grow fruit right in an underserved neighbourhood? They say their aim is to turn city streets into food forests, and unravel civilization one branch at a time.