Guerrilla Harvesting

In my recent post “Making Eating Public” I talked about the potential shift that we might see if we made our eating, our growing, and our food choices and values more public. I mused about guerrilla gardening and other urban agriculture projects. In a comment on that post, my friend Dave suggested two ideas that had not occurred to me previously but are worth considering further. In this post I’ll cover the first.

Noting that guerrilla gardening can be seen as confrontational or even destructive by other community members, Dave suggested we think about what it might be like to do more “guerrilla harvesting.”

This reminded me of an article I read a few years ago in ReadyMade Magazine about the Fallen Fruit project which was mapping the streets of LA around the idea of guerrilla harvesting. The article called the projects founders “accidental gardeners.” The project is based on an arcane law on the books in LA, that if a fruit tree hangs into public property then that fruit is considered to belong to the public.

“Fallen Fruit is a collaborative art project which began as a whimsical mapping of our neighborhood public fruit: all the fruit trees we could find that grew on or over public property,” states the Fallen Fruit website. “When your neighbor’s fruit tree hangs into your yard, that fruit is considered yours. But whose fruit is that on public property? We believe that fruit planted on private property which overhangs public space should be public property and created this project to encourage people both to harvest and plant public fruit. The project is a response to accelerating urbanization and the loss of people’s capacity to produce their own foods, as well as issues around grassroots community activism, social welfare and social responsibility.”

You can hear more about this project in this NPR story.

A similar project is going on in Portland, Oregon. They call it “urban fruit gleaning.” I’ll let the video below describe it:

In the end, I think there is a lot of potential in projects like this to not only harvest valuable food for the people willing to search it out or for charitable groups and shelters. However, almost as important as the fruit itself is the experience that projects like this provide. They are powerful reminders of our place in nature, and nature’s place in our lives. Our cities are full of nature, and full of potential.

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