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Fruit Finders

news2-1The Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project’s urban gleaning effort grows

It’s impossible to gauge the exact amount of fruit and vegetables that go to waste every year in California, but a 2010 University of Southern California study estimated it to be millions of tons. Most of our rotting fruit lies on the floors of orchards and fields, but plenty also goes unused in yards and public spaces in urban areas.

Given this fact, local Steve Schnaar and his group The Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project have their work cut out for them.

Part scavenger hunt, part sustainability educator, and part community builder, The Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project is a volunteer-run effort to find untended fruit trees in local neighborhoods and help to collect unused fruit.

The group’s driving philosophy—imbibed with locavore ethos and a dedication to sustainability—is to capture the perfectly good fruit at Santa Cruz’s fingertips before buying fruit with a huge carbon footprint at the grocery store.

“It’s a mess,” says Schnaar. ”All of the [unused local] fruit gets really mushy and rotting. It’s part of this whole agricultural system—you [buy] apples shipped from thousands of miles away, and the same fruit is sitting in our backyards, being wasted.” 

Schnaar founded the group in 2010, basing the loosely organized project on similar urban gleaning movements that have sprung up around the globe in recent years.

“I’d been doing this stuff for years anyway,” says Schnaar. “I’d knock on people’s doors and ask about their trees, so when I heard about The Fruit Tree Project, I decided to start one here in Santa Cruz. We’re lucky enough to have fruit available year-round.”

He has looked to efforts in Portland, Ore., Seattle, Wash., Canada and even London. “The idea exists everywhere,” he says.

news2-2“The idea,” as Schnaar calls it, is simple. Collecting the fruit is step one. Step two is to host events that involve processing the harvest in some way; pickling, preserving, or pressing are all common fates for the found fruit. All year long, but especially during the peak harvest season of August through December, the group hosts at least one event per month, such as cider presses and persimmon preservation. Persimmons will be the group’s focus fruit for the month of December, but apples, pears and pomegranates are all in season in Santa Cruz this time of year. 

Schnaar says that turnout usually averages about 14 volunteers per fruit-picking expedition, but larger events, like cider presses, can draw up to 30 or more.

For some volunteers, the project is a way to bridge the gap between urban and rural experiences. 

“I moved to Santa Cruz after living on a small organic farm for two years,” says Kristie Karloff, a prominent volunteer and familiar face at Fruit Tree Project events. “[The project] helped bring some of what I value about farm living into town life.”

Schnaar and other Fruit Tree Project volunteers hope to expand the reach and scope of the project to include an educational aspect. Schnaar, in particular, is looking to expand the tree-care aspect of the group, which would involve teaching tree owners how to prune and care for their trees.

“We’ve done a little bit of tree-care,” says Schnaar, “but we’re hoping to get into planting trees as well. I’d like to see the whole pruning program start to focus on the resurgence of skills that have been lost—pruning, making cuttings, giving away saplings.”

Blaize Wilkinson, another project volunteer, has a similar vision. 

“I’d love to be able to offer tree maintenance at the sites we’re harvesting at,” says Wilkinson. 

However, at its most basic level, the project remains about curbing waste.

“I look for ways to tread lightly on the earth, and I feel that The Fruit Tree Project events are one way to do that,” says Karloff. “Some buy their fruit from the grocery store— fruit that may have been grown with pesticides and flown across the world. The Fruit Tree Project gives us the opportunity to glean fruit from our neighborhoods—fruit that our neighbors are happy to share. We merely have to walk or ride our bikes to their yards.” 


To get involved with the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project or to offer fruit from your trees, visit their website at fruitcruz.org. A persimmon harvest is planned for Sunday, Nov. 25 and for Sunday, Dec. 9, with an accompanying workshop that teaches volunteers how to dry persimmons. 

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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