Public Produce: Filling the Sidewalks with Fruit Trees

public produceThis review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a   green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco Libris.

Triple Pundit was thrilled to take part in the green books campaign because we love reading and we especially love reading books that have been produced in an environmentally responsible way.

We reviewed Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture, a book that lays out the public policy rationale for landscaping public lands with fruit bearing trees.  Imagine if that shrub was replaced with an apple tree? It’s a pretty neat idea. Even better, this tome is printed on recycled paper.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem to have much to do with sustainable business, because the book argues for a shift in municipal policy. But Triple Pundit is a place where we love to talk about food and we’ve covered many businesses that deal with food innovation. The policy laid out in Public Produce has all the tenets of an innovative model: cost reduction, life improvement and a healthy a dose of “why haven’t I thought of that.”  Author Darrin Norahl lays out all the problems with our current food production and distribution system: the dearth of affordable healthy food in the inner city and its connection to obesity; hunger; the 1500 miles the average piece of produce travels; outbreaks of food borne illness that sicken and kill people country wide and the environmental degradation associated with big ag. Then he provides an elegant solution:

“If a network of locally available, publicly accessible produce is to be successful, the largest single land-owner within the city- the municipality itself- will have to be engaged.”

Fortunately, the largest land owners in municipal areas are the municipalities themselves, and they are already spending loads of money on landscaping! What if they just shifted the plants in the rotation to the food bearing ones? At best, the municipality becomes the biggest purveyor at the farmer’s market. At worst, city residents can wander by and pick up some free healthy snacks for the road.

The book goes further into analyzing the reasons why such a policy shift makes sense. It’s a great read for students of public policy and food activists as well as micro-growers.

But the most interesting thing here for 3P readers really is the possibility for problem solving inherent in an innovative mindset. We have many friends in the business community who are taking similar approaches to solving the problem of getting local food to urban residents in a concrete wasteland:

Neighborhood Fruit is building a community around the produce that is already available on public land, or from generous homeowners with too many lemons.

MyFarm lets homeowners pay a landscaping fee to the farmers and get a take of the food grown in their neighborhood.

Those are two companies working to bring good food to urban areas in our city. Do you know of any in yours? Please share in the comments!

Jen Boynton

Jen is editor in chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and lives in Oakland with her husband and normally happy baby. 
Hit her up at on twitter @jenboynton to discuss diapering strategies or sustainability reporting methodology.