Thursday, January 28, 2010

Harvesting the City

[Image: Argonne Community Garden Orchard in San Francisco]

If you have even one fruit tree in your garden, you know that the harvest yield is often more than a family can handle. When all the lemons, or plums, or avocados start to ripen at the same time, you’d better have a canning plan ready or some neighbors to share with.

Enter Stockton Harvest. The brainchild of Eric Firpo, a Master Gardener and urban orchardist, Stockton Harvest will purchase your backyard fruits and nuts and resell them. The startup currently offers walnuts, lemons, tangerines and grapefruits, fresh from the city and suburb’s backyard gardeners. Their mission:

"Stockton Harvest buys fruit and produce grown by you, the urban and sub-urban farmer — food that, without us, would rot on the ground, on your counter or in your fridge. We resell the fruit to a hungry planet — and deliver it to the doorsteps of people who appreciate natural foods and growing the local economy."
There are so many promising things at work here – innovative urban farming at a dispersed network scale, an ethic of harvesting the bounty you have, a community building initiative that reimages the city as an orchard. And while Stockton Harvest doesn’t pay much for the produce (10 to 25 cents per pound) the genius is in bringing some transparency to the price we pay for food. While 25 cents doesn’t sound like a lot to a seller, the average consumer doesn’t expect to pay more than a $1 per pound for many fruits. By allowing the consumer to assume the role of producer and to understand the labor of production, harvest and distribution (even on this modest scale), the project has the potential to generate a new perspective on the fair price of food.

I look forward to following Stockton Harvest as it grows its business, and wonder if other programs like this exist. Do you have an urban orchard harvest program in your town?