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 Boynton is the former Editor-in-Chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and has helped organizations including SAP, PwC and Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. She is based in San Diego, California.When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

12 responses

  1. I am a backyard (and front yard) fruit grower, and I agree that we need fresh food in cities. But there are serious problems with growing fruit on public land.

    First is that the fruits we usually eat- like apples, peaches, and pears, all require very careful pruning and pest managament. If pests aren’t controlled, blight spreads rapidly, killing trees and potentially infecting orchards nearby.

    Persimmons, pawpaws, and mulberries are great zero maintence fruits for the Eastern US. But not many people recognize these as food, much less eat them regularly.

    Another thing I’ve learned from stocking my yard with food is that wildlife is more than willing to take the entire harvest. A city full of fruit trees will have plentiful birds, but also many rats and raccoons. It is best to plant fruit under a watchful eye, rather than in public space. It would be a crime for a person to dump a truckload of fruit on the ground where rats could get it; we shouldn’t encourage trees to do it either.

  2. Pingback: Green Books Campaign: Public Produce | Triple Pundit: People … | Green Company Report
  3. Have you heard about the city of San Francisco’s foray into public gardening? They ended up having to hire security to watch the gardens as the plants and food they grew were stolen several times, presumably by the homeless. I’m not sure what the solution is.

    1. Well, you can just assume that stealing is a good thing, if it means people will be eating the food! Not so great if they leave things in disarray, I suppose, but part of the ideas is that this is food for the people.

  4. Pingback: Clicklist: From gardens to food to compost | green LA girl
  5. I believe that until our govt addresses the basic structural problems in our financial system of too much debt, we will not have a sustainable recovery. So while the stock market can stay irrational in the shorter term, in the long run I believe it will go back to reflecting the fundamentals of our boom and bust economy. And that’s why I continue to feel that for long term investors a better portfolio allocation is in cash and gold. I think the gold price will continue to rise due to a lack of faith in central banks’ policies and in fiat currencies. I recently saw a very interesting articles called Gold Price Up, Dollar Down – Does it Really Matter? which I think is particularly useful for investors to read to get a better sense of what’s going on in the economy and the govt’s role in influencing it.

  6. I have read this book “Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture,” it is really nice. Thank you for reveiw.

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