SURFIN’ the CITY
While we are on the subject of fruit trees I’d like to share other opportunities urban agriculture addresses. (Local food, beautification, childhood health education, supporting wildlife…
Urban agriculture you say, thats a great idea! I’ll just plow up my back forty here in Montford and plant some taters…c’mon get real! houses with an open lot are getting split like atoms around here. For 30 years the empty lot across the street from my house stood empty and the past year hosted all my garden experiments. It just went up for sale this spring and sold in 2 days for $20,000 over asking price. Asta la rivaderchi my fair garlic .
There is another Edible park that is lesser known than the George Washington Carver Edible Park and that is in Asheville’s historic neighborhood, Montford. At the Montford Rec center at the end of West Chestnut St within walking distance north of downtown a small orchard of 30 some trees was planted 8 years ago and is just coming into maturity and hardly anyone knows. Due to neglect the trees haven’t faired as well as their counterparts across town, but I’ve been working with Asheville parks and recs, Bountiful Cities project and Quality forward in an effort to rejuvenate them. This little rag tag bunch of fruit trees clinging to the clay fill soil is located on a site with a $1,000,000 view of the mountains. It is a popular neighborhood place to go to take in a full dose of sunset. There has been a problem with developers and erosion as the excessive runoff from their drool has washed much of the topsoil away. This park finally came to my attention as a place worth reviving only this year. It is funny how you can walk by a place a 100 times before the carbonation hits your nose. The soil appears to have never been amended with organic matter or nutrients. Even the grass eeks out a spartan living on this windswept knob which with its abundance of airflow and sunshine is ideal for low maintenance organic fruit production.The trees are planted in the pattern of a receding hairline and receding they are as we lost 3 more trees this last winter with others barely hanging on by the follicles!
It really doesn’t make cents for me to buy acreage in town unless I’m going to build condos. So how can I, renting a room in a small house and renting artist space practice urban agriculture? Carbonation hit. What about public lands!? That’s mine too! To go from “serf in the city” to “surfin’ the city”. So i got this crazy idea. I and another fruit tree expert would run a workshop on fruit tree care on this public land. We would charge a nominal fee and we would learn theories in the classroom at the rec center then go outside and apply them to the trees themselves. The money that was made went into buying new trees, soil amendments for the existing trees, a stipend for the other instructor, and seed money for the next workshop. I received no money for this. The city delivered six loads of composted leaf mulch and provided the hand tools for spreading. The workshop happened to be on super bowl Sunday and we affectionately called it the “Fruit Bowl I”. 30 fruit enthusiasts turned out and learned about fruit trees and their care. All the while planting the new trees, digging in amendments and adding precious organic matter in the way of mulch. Just in the few weeks where the mulch had sat the grass had already turned a deeper green!
So what happened was:
- 30 people gained a deeper understanding and level of comfort working with fruit trees. Also, a closer connection and ownership to the trees in the park. Which improves the chances of them coming back to care for them.
- The trees in the park got badly needed attention and will be a lot more healthy and productive along with the addition of new fruit varieties.
- It only cost the city six truckloads of yard waste.
- The kids that visit the park will have more chances to experience fresh fruit from trees.
- Leaders and educators have an outdoor classroom resource to talk about eating fresh foods, healthy diets, and combating childhood obesity.
- A teacher was supported for the skills he has gathered and shared with the community.
- and I…I’m Surfin’ the city. I get to practice urban agriculture and it brings me great joy doing something that benefits so many others. It feels like a circle of people giving each other a massage.
Since then I bought more trees (financed by the workshop) to make an wild edible hedge at the rec center. I had a work party to plant and mulch them. There has been a grafting workshop to further empower people to learn to propagate their own fruit trees. Upcoming, is a small fruit and berry workshop Sunday April 22nd (Earth Day). The same template will apply and we will be planting an edible hedge which will be ornamental, great wildlife support, healthy food for kids , and a model for what people can plant in their own neighborhoods with minimal space. Now my only problem is I have raised all this money to buy beautiful fruit trees and I don’t have anybody to help plant them. Anyone want to play urban agriculture with me?
Hot tip- Today is march 27th and the Edible Park is in bloom. Right now the plums, pears and the delicate, exoticly crimson paw paw flowers are out, and it is well worth going there and basking in their beauty.