On Saturday, March 23, 2013, the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project held a citrus harvest in the Seabright neighborhood. Inspired by similar projects across Canada and in the U.S., the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project seeks out residents willing to share their surplus fruit, as well as trees on public land or vacant lots. Since August 2010, they have organized approximately 50 harvests and workshops.
On this sunny afternoon, the group converged at Frederick Street Park and then split up from there to pick lemons and oranges. At the park, organizer Steve Schnaar explained that unlike previous events, all the harvested fruit would be placed into collective bins and then distributed at the end. Furthermore, the Fruit Tree Project also intends to start giving processed fruit gifts to all the residents who share their fruit.
Kristie, Karsten, Debora, and Thad rode bicycles from the park while the other group left on foot. Although it was Debora’s first harvest with Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project, she helped plan and organize the event. While picking lemons at the first stop, Debora revealed, “I love the idea of picking the excess fruit in our neighborhood.” Then she asked rhetorically, “How much more local can you get?”
Debora, who also goes by Debbie, and her partner Karsten operate the breathtaking Fairytale Farm. About the farm, Debbie explains, “We live in downtown Santa Cruz, in an area zoned for medium-density residential, which means we are surrounded by multi-units. We could have put up a 3 story, 3 unit apartment, but the dirt was more valuable to us, in every way but financial.”
Expanding on Debbie’s vision Karsten stated, “We want to grow fruit with our neighbors and model how it works while documenting the process. And plan what trees are planted because it’s always too much fruit for one family.”
I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Jonathan as he watched lemons being harvested from his trees. Jonathan recalled that “two weeks ago, Debora rode by on an odd bicycle contraption” and asked him if he was interested in allowing Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project to make use of his lemons.
Jonathan retired three months ago from his position as a fundraiser for the engineering department at UC Santa Cruz. He is very happy that the lemons are going to a good cause and that people can make use of them. On a deeper level, Jonathan said firmly, “Alternative economic programs are the future if we are going to survive as a species.”
Both lemon trees are productive throughout the year and have been on the property since before Jonathan began living there 30 years ago. In all those years, this was the first time he had ever been approached about harvesting the lemons.
Jonathan stated that he was impressed by the professionalism of Debora and the Fruit Tree Project. He didn’t expect that the organization would have liability insurance, but it was a pleasant surprise.
In previous years, Jonathan was “sad about all the fruit going to waste.” He explained, “It’s a lot of work for us to trim the trees and try to find homes for the fruit.”
For more information on the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project, you can visit FruitCruz.org.