Neighborhood Fruit

One website links fruit producers with fruit eaters.

by Tovah Martin

Apple tree

Courtesy Stock.XCHNG helps neighbors share their urban-grown fruit so it doesn’t go to waste.

Anyone who has ever planted a peach tree will report that fruit tends to ripen in a windfall. One week, you’re looking at green peaches; the next week, you’ve got bushels begging to be eaten. What to do with that sudden feast and preventing it from going to waste has prodded Kaytea Petro to begin a fruit-linking website.

Actually, began its cyber-life as a theoretical concept only. The idea was hatched when Petro was working on her master’s thesis at Presidio School of Management and needed to develop a sustainable business plan. After graduating, Petro didn’t have to cast about for a venue to put her education to work—she turned to her thesis plan. For technical support, she recruited software engineer Oriana Sarac, a friend and fellow graduate of Presidio. And that’s how the website connecting urban fruit trees with potential harvesters/consumers became ripe for the picking. Since the site went live in January 2009, the bounty from the site’s listings of 10,000 urban trees has been shared in neighborhoods throughout the country.

Petro’s mission is to link fruit-hungry neighbors with trees that have a superabundance. Here’s how it works: The website invites noncommercial fruit growers (both public and private) to list what they have available and how they want to share it; options include hosting a fruit-picking event or staging a pre-harvested fruit pick-up. To protect privacy, only approximate locations of offerings are listed on the website. There’s no need to host the whole city in your backyard—you can stipulate a pick-up location elsewhere. Very importantly, no money is exchanged to prevent running amok with local agricultural regulations. So far, fruit growers in 20 U.S. cities ranging from San Francisco to Honolulu, Chicago and Philadelphia have linked with their neighbors to spread the bounty via the website.   

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The simplicity of the plan helps to make it effective, but the benefits go beyond a juicy bite from a peach or plum. Petro sees her site as an avenue toward inner-city nutritional improvement as well as community health. It’s an idea whose time is ripe.

About the Author: When Tovah Martin isn’t pulling weeds from her organic garden, she’s writing about gardening in its many forms and lecturing throughout the country.

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