Guerilla harvests
December 16, 2005 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Fallen Fruit. you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger. Lev. 19 Fallen Fruit took root when CalArts professor Matias Viegener discovered an old city law declaring that all fruit growing on branches that overhang into public property is free for the taking, even if the trunk of that tree is in private domain.
posted by caddis (24 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My neighbor has a peach tree, one branch of which grows into my yard. I had always wondered if I could legally pick their peaches. Never really thought about making a movement around a similar question.
posted by teece at 12:23 PM on December 16, 2005

As a committed urban fruit picker, I applaud this post.

Within a couple miles of my house there are apple, pear, plum and peach trees, many of which aren't ever harvested. I blame the "if it doesn't come from the supermarket, it's dirty and unsafe to eat" mentality, which is surprisingly pervasive.
posted by killdevil at 12:39 PM on December 16, 2005

The Gleaners and I.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 12:46 PM on December 16, 2005

Hey, shhhhh! Don't let the cat out of the bag, dammit!

*goes back to picking crabapples*
posted by cog_nate at 12:47 PM on December 16, 2005

On a nice warm summer's day, I can walk home from work, partaking in blackberries, nectarines, plums, figs and apples. It's surprising how much of the fruit is left to rot on the ground.
posted by tomble at 12:57 PM on December 16, 2005

When we were kids, my mother was a devoted canner, her favourite game, (still is actually) was "lets pretend we're poor," which dovetailed nicely with her other favourite passtime "Lets save pennies." Explaining the cost of driving across town to save on tinned tuna wasn't really a savings due to gas and time did not compute for her.

Anyway, the local high security prision had a number of apple trees on the grounds, outside of the formal prison proper but within a barbed wired yard. Mom marched up to the gate, informed the gaurds on duty she was a taxpayer and intended to not see the apples fall uneaten to the ground agian, she was here to pick them with her two young sons. She'd make applesauce.

Unbeleiveably they allowed it, we picked apples on the prison yard. I liked my mom for throwing nice apples over the fence to the prisoners on excercise break in the actual yard. My brother and I were completely terrified the whole time. We never went back a second time, I suspect my father probably forbid it, or maybe my brother and I whining made the apples cost more than they were worth.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:10 PM on December 16, 2005

There's a fig tree that grows over the sidewalk on my way home. I figure if I have to duck under the branches, the fruit is mine. Now I wonder if I'm actually within the law.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:25 PM on December 16, 2005

Keith, wonderful story! Thanks for sharing.
posted by Triplanetary at 1:29 PM on December 16, 2005

you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field...

I have heard that this is the reason that Hasidic men
wear payos, not cutting their hair to the edges.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:34 PM on December 16, 2005

What, so that I, a poor, hairless man, can come along and snip it off for myself?
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:42 PM on December 16, 2005

I have volunteered before with a group here in San Diego that harvests fruit from orchards who's owners don't want to deal with the hassle. All the fruit they harvest goes to the local food bank for distribution to the needy.

It's a pretty good system. The owners get the fruit removed for free, the food bank gets fresh, delicious produce and I ate oranges until I was sick of them!
posted by feersum endjinn at 1:43 PM on December 16, 2005

As ereshkigal45 mentioned, The Gleaners is a great documentary which covers fruit picking, among other gleaning categories. In France (i believe) you can actually pick fruit/veggies from a field/orchard after it has been harvested (otherwise it would go to waste), though I can't imagine anything like that flying in the US.

Unrelated, but there are also paths/trails in much of England and mainland europe that cut through private property but are publicly accessible.
posted by shoepal at 1:47 PM on December 16, 2005

Scene: Me commuting by bicycle. On my way to work at 5 a.m. along Aramingo Avenue in Philadelphia. Up ahead I see a disturbance, but I can't quite tell what is going on yet. I do hear a thumping sound, though. As I get close I see an elderly Asian woman with a push broom and large paper bags. In the tree, straddling a limb is her equally elderly husband who is thumping the tree with his baseball bat, causing the gingko nuts to fall to the street. She is busily sweeping them up and bagging them. Made my day.
posted by fixedgear at 1:55 PM on December 16, 2005

In France (i believe) you can actually pick fruit/veggies from a field/orchard after it has been harvested (otherwise it would go to waste), though I can't imagine anything like that flying in the US.

Which makes me think what the fuck is wrong with us, and what the fuck I'm still doing here.
posted by Ynoxas at 2:45 PM on December 16, 2005

What a good idea, to send out volunteers to pick unwanted fruit...our old rent house had a massive pear tree that produced many more pears than we could ever eat, and when they rotted, attracted all kinds of critters. I wish I'd thought of seeing if someone could come collect them.
posted by emjaybee at 2:51 PM on December 16, 2005

I used to walk to work along the Queensway in the west end of Toronto. There were several apple trees growing on the verge, about 15 feet from the road, and in apple season, I wound up with 2-3 nice fresh apples every day. My husband still says I'm going to get sick from eating fruit so close to a major road, but I feel pretty damn good.
posted by maudlin at 4:38 PM on December 16, 2005

Wow. So back in undergrad, we weren't really stealing all those artichokes we thought we stole. At least not all of them.

Keith-- your mom rules.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 5:05 PM on December 16, 2005

Some Tucson high-schoolers took on a similar project in their neighborhood and made a GIS map of their results: Jefferson Park Neighborhood's Locally Grown Food Resources
posted by Tufa at 5:32 PM on December 16, 2005

Hmmmm. My backyard has a spliced tree that produces three different types of apple (it's a pain, but the spliced part appeals to my geek side and thus I keep it).

It yielded heavily this year, far more than I could use. I couldn't get people to show up to help themselves. I told everyone and their proverbial brother to help themselves, but, alas and alack, all to no avail.
posted by Samizdata at 8:57 PM on December 16, 2005

People are funny that way. Put up a sign saying "Do Not Pick" and see if that helps get rid of some of the fruit.

Hey, it worked for the Big Bearded Guy.
posted by stirfry at 9:23 PM on December 16, 2005

Make cider.
posted by kenko at 9:37 PM on December 16, 2005

They should plant fruit trees in all major parks, especially the ones frequented by homeless people.
posted by deusdiabolus at 10:02 PM on December 16, 2005

people at my workplace bring in bags of excess lemons, plums, and apples from the trees they have at home. they leave 'em in the company kitchen. all of it always gets eaten or taken home. a lot of us who live in the city appreciate it - much cheaper than the farmer's market! so if you have surplus and an employer who is cool, try that.

back in my youth, there was a small summer industry for some teen punk rockers in north county san diego: they'd collect excess avocados and bring bags around to local businesses. i could buy a bag of avocados (about 20) for a buck. some people made the accusation that the fruit was stolen, but... i've seen so many avos rotting on the ground in that area i can't imagine it would be worth the hassle to actually steal 'em.

now i live in san francisco and the local market sells one avocado for the same price as a whole bag used to cost me. ah well.

this is a cool post, thanks caddis.

oh and yeah - keith, your mom rocks.
posted by lapolla at 11:16 PM on December 16, 2005

Hmm, interesting bit from Leviticus that I completely forgot about. Once again, it's sad that these kind of messages are completely forgotten in the American religious dialouge. Where is the call for Christians to give to the poor? I guess everyone was too busy screaming about the faggots and Lev. 18:22 to notice the part one chapter later where they are reminded of their religious duty to help strangers and the poor.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 7:49 AM on December 17, 2005

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