Program Summary

In each year from 1990 through 2000, Mag­ic vol­un­teers, assist­ed by whole­sale nurs­ery oper­a­tors, Whole Foods Mar­ket in Palo Alto, and oth­er orga­ni­za­tion­al part­ners, sal­vaged thou­sands of sur­plus fruit trees, and dis­trib­uted them through schools and char­i­ties for plant­i­ng through­out the greater San Fran­cis­co Bay Area.

Togeth­er we res­cued more than 23,000 trees and passed them along to over 15,000 chil­dren in more than fifty schools, and to almost two dozen char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tions. These trees now grace cities from San­ta Rosa to Gon­za­les, Rich­mond to Half Moon Bay.

We pre­pared a writ­ten cur­ricu­lum, as well as plant­i­ng and care instruc­tions, which class­room teach­ers or Fruition vol­un­teers present to prospec­tive tree recip­i­ents as a con­di­tion of their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the program.

In fol­low-up sur­veys we found 70–95% of Fruition trees suc­cess­ful­ly estab­lished after one year.

Issues Addressed

Through Fruition, peo­ple learn about cycling of nutri­ents and flows of ener­gy through the bios­phere by which life on Earth exists.

We find incen­tive to con­tem­plate dif­fer­ent ways in which food is grown and processed, and to con­sid­er con­se­quences of each for our and oth­ers’ well-being.

We recon­sid­er costs and ben­e­fits of alter­na­tive res­i­den­tial land­scape practices.

We expe­ri­ence stew­ard­ship in an activ­i­ty where rewards are direct, albeit requir­ing some patience.

We draw inspi­ra­tion to think about the future, and to live more with an eye to mak­ing it good for every­one-our­selves, our own fam­i­lies and friends, peo­ple in oth­er places, and those yet to be born.

Consumer Choices:

With home orchard­ing we can shape land­scapes which are more envi­ron­men­tal­ly benign than many. If we select plant vari­eties well-matched to our locale, we may suc­cess­ful­ly cul­ti­vate them with­out apply­ing man­u­fac­tured pes­ti­cide or nutri­ent, and with­out using large quan­ti­ties of import­ed water.

We may also avoid oth­er nega-tive envi­ron­men­tal impacts of indus­tri­al agri­cul­ture by bypass­ing ener­gy-inten­sive trans­port and pro­cess­ing, and reduc­ing incen­tives for open-cycle, non-renew­able-resource-deplet­ing, haz­ardous-sub­stance-depen­dent methods.

Home grow­ers often sun-dry or can to pre­serve sea­son­al sur­plus for lat­er use. With these meth­ods we typ­i­cal­ly impose few­er bur­den­some envi­ron­men­tal con­se­quences than we do when we pur­chase com­mer­cial­ly canned or frozen food, or when we trans­port out-of-sea­son foods. Many peo­ple also dis­cov­er recre­ation­al val­ue in orchard­ing, and dis­place activ­i­ties with less pos­i­tive envi­ron­men­tal impact to pur­sue it.

Hazardous Household Waste:

Lawn and gar­den care prod­ucts com­prise a major frac­tion of haz­ardous house­hold waste. Peo­ple who eat from a res­i­den­tial land­scape are less like­ly to poi­son it. Fruition staff have watched indi­vid­u­als expand with sen­si­bil­i­ties from a sin­gle tree, to a whole prop­er­ty, to the glob­al environment.

Reduction, Reuse, Recycling:

Recy­cling of car­bon is essen­tial to bios­pher­ic sta­bil­i­ty. Fruit trees on home grounds absorb car­bon and trap it in their woody tis­sues, some­times for decades. With fruit trees we lessen CO2 build-up (1) by dimin­ish­ing reliance upon a sys­tem of agri­cul­ture and food pro­cess­ing in which we cap­ture car­bon at one-tenth the rate we release it, and (2) by pro­vid­ing shade and wind­break ben­e­fits to cut fuel require­ments for space heat­ing or cool­ing. Trees we sal­vage are des­tined to be burned as waste with­in days, putting the car­bon from their tis­sues into the atmos­phere, and degrad­ing air qual­i­ty with particulates.

Peo­ple engaged in home orchard­ing com­mon­ly come to rec­og­nize kitchen scraps, leaves, and gar­den clip­pings as resources and com­post them rather than send them to a land­fill or incin­er­a­tor.
In times of drought, fruit trees on home grounds offer strong induce­ment to cap­ture house­hold waste water (gray­wa­ter) for irri­ga­tion. Final­ly, with home orchard­ing we obvi­ate food pack­ag­ing, much of which is dif­fi­cult to recy­cle, and com­pris­es a major com­po­nent of res­i­den­tial waste.


Mag­ic request­ed that staff and stu­dents at schools par­tic­i­pat­ing in Fruition agree to car­ry out the sev­en steps out­lined here. (We tried to make excep­tions where full com­pli­ance was difficult.)

  1. At least one rep­re­sen­ta­tive from each school comes to Mag­ic’s office in Palo Alto. The pur­pose of this meet­ing is to pro­vide back­ground infor­ma­tion and cur­ricu­lum mate­ri­als, respond to ques­tions, and estab­lish a face-to-face work­ing rela­tion­ship. If you like, you may return for addi­tion­al guidance.
  2. A vol­un­teer affil­i­at­ed with each school con­tacts local press, takes pho­tographs on dis­tri­b­u­tion day, and sends two copies of news clip­pings and pho­tographs to Mag­ic. We for­ward one copy to the whole­sale nurs­eries that donat­ed the trees to thank them for their gift, and retain one for our records.
  3. Teach­ers in par­tic­i­pat­ing class­rooms devote a min­i­mum of one hour of class time to pre­sent­ing the cur­ricu­lum and prepar­ing stu­dents to receive trees.
  4. Teach­ers dis­trib­ute com­mit­ment slips to chil­dren for par­ents to sign, pledg­ing that they will help their child plant and care for one (or more) trees.
  5. Teach­ers col­lect and tal­ly slips, and report to Mag­ic the num­ber of trees for which they have care com­mit­ments. We work dili­gent­ly to pro­vide each stu­dent at least one tree. In past years we have met all requests; how­ev­er Mag­ic can­not guar­an­tee that trees will be available.
  6. School per­son­nel and vol­un­teers recruit­ed by the school com­mu­ni­ty pick-up trees at Mag­ic and dis­trib­ute them to children.
  7. School rep­re­sen­ta­tives col­lect from one to five dol­lars per tree, which may be drawn from school funds, stu­dent fam­i­lies, or oth­er sources. Amounts in excess of two dol­lars per tree enable us to serve those who pay less.
  8. With these pay­ments, stu­dent fam­i­lies and teach­ers become more invest­ed in the trees’ well-being. We have dis­cov­ered that pay­ment cor­re­lates pos­i­tive­ly with tree sur­vival. You also com­mu­ni­cate to Mag­ic vol­un­teers and to oth­er donors that you val­ue Fruition. Under­stand, how­ev­er, that once you have com­mit­ted to Fruition, we deliv­er it as well as we are able, regard­less of what you lat­er contribute.