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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Teachers in participating classrooms devote a minimum of one hour of class time to presenting the curriculum and preparing students to receive trees.
- 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.
- 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.
- School personnel and volunteers recruited by the school community pick-up trees at Magic and distribute them to children.
- 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.
- 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.