Redefining the City Landscape

Redefining the City Landscape

The fallen fruit movement is a playful collaboration among artists, community organizers, food activists, gardeners, and urban foragers. FallenFruit began as a public art project in Southern California, mapping the locations of fruit trees available for gleaning. Then they created “fallen fruit trails,” adopt-a-tree plans, and started cooking together in “urban jam” parties. Now, in cities all over the country fallen fruit activists are finding ways to redefine the city landscape as a place to grow and share food. Some groups are more mischievous than others, such as the Guerrilla Grafters in San Francisco, who graft fruit bearing branches on to ornamental trees in public places. Others are not averse to climbing over fences to forage or sneaking into parks to plant fruit trees. The New York Times has called the movement “tasty and subversive.”

I think part of the reason this trend is so attractive is that freely gathering and sharing food is deeply embedded in our DNA. Early humans followed animals to their stashes and learned their tricks. We aren’t the only species to be seduced by fruit. But we moved on and began tending the plants that fed us - the great oak forests of the Middle East, the grasses of the Americas, and the rice growing in the river deltas of Africa and Asia. Agriculture emerged from thousands of years of this ancient intimacy between people, plants, and place.

Suddenly, it seems, just in the last century, we’ve almost lost touch with where our food comes from and how dependent we actually are on the bounty of nature. The kind of clever and generous fun that fallen fruit activists are having is just the right antidote to that disconnection.