Recently, our Urban Agriculture class had the great pleasure of skyping with Lisa Gross, the chairman and founder of the Boston Tree Party. The organization plants pairs of fruit-bearing trees, in this case trees of the heirloom apple variety, in public spaces. These trees bear apples, which provide nourishment to the community. According to the Boston Tree Party, these trees symbolize something much more significant: “Together, these trees forma decentralized public urban orchard that symbolizes a commitment to the environment health of our city, the vitality and interconnectedness of our communities and the wellbeing of the next generation.”
Ms. Gross first provided a bit of background about herself, the inception of the idea and the origins of the Boston Tree Party, and then fielded questions from the class.
I was completely unaware of the Boston Tree Party before being introduced to the organization through class. After listening to Ms. Gross speak and doing some more follow-up research of my own, I am completely enamored with the concept being put into action by the Boston Tree Party. This project works precisely because it is more than simply an urban agriculture project. It has historical undertones both overt and subtle. It builds community. It brings the community together around a project that gives back to the community. It says things about the community and what it can accomplish.
These projects not only give nourishment in the form of apples, but they also beautify the city. In his book Public Produce, Darrin Nordahl argues for edible landscapes: “We will have to begin to change our perception of what edible landscapes in urban spaces currently are, and recognize what they could be: places to socialize, to decompress, to garden and to forage. And they should also be beautiful. But the idea that food-bearing plants can be both nutritious and beauteous will take time” (112). Nordahl culminates this particular chapter of his book by arguing for more edible replacements in public spaces. To him, it’s a no-brainer. Edible landscaping helps fight food security.
I believe that the public’s perception of edible landscaping will change. With the help of groups like the Boston Tree Party, people are becoming more aware of the benefits of edible landscaping. Not only that, but communities are being strengthened and important issues are being brought into the spotlight. Who could argue with that?
Boston Tree Party: The Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2014. <http://www.bostontreeparty.org/about/party/>.
Nordahl, Darrin. Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2009. Print.