New Internationalist

Sharing the bounty

Issue 442

Anna Weston discovers Abundance – bringing urban fruit harvesting to a city near you.

Balaji.B under a CC Licence
Balaji.B under a CC Licence

Abundance slips between and prises open the idea of “private and public” by harvesting, through agreement, collaboration, reciprocation and permission, in backyards, church grounds, hospital carparks, industrial estates, waste land, streets, scrub, derelict property, private businesses, public authority housing, parks and green spaces, and turns ownership on its head by distributing these private resources publicly.’*

The idea is to make use of fruit that would otherwise rot on the trees and use the produce to make jams, chutneys, pickles and juices that are then distributed to local community groups for free. Abundance locates public and private growing sites, notes when the fruit is ripe and then organizes groups of volunteers to collect and preserve it. Obviously they make sure that they seek the permission of the landowner before harvesting trees on private land, but when trees are located on public land they are seen as a public resource. Care is taken not to damage the tree and some fruit is left for wildlife.

Fruit trees and bushes produce ‘low-effort’ food, but there are often gluts when much of the produce is wasted. The trees grow happily on waste ground and continue to thrive on the sites of old orchards, where only the local wildlife take advantage at harvest time.

Local authorities are starting to use fruiting trees and shrubs as part of urban planting schemes but, unless picked, the spoilt fruit just creates a mess. Groups like Abundance should be encouraged and supported. They prevent waste, provide a healthy activity for the fruit harvesters, keep skills such as preserving alive and, when you consider that 95 per cent of fruit on sale in Britain is imported, their ethos just seems to make sense. So start planning now, note where fruit trees and bushes are blossoming, get some willing helpers together and start planning an Abundance group in your area.

Anna is office manager at New Internationalist in Oxford, and our gardening guru.

*From the Abundance handbook: www.growsheffield.com/images/abundbkview.pdf

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