A Fruit-full Commons

Ripe cherriesIt's early summer in Rochester, one of my favorite times of the year.  The sun is out and the temperature is comfortable (most of the time).  But probably what I enjoy most right now is the abundance of fresh fruit that I am able to harvest within a 5 minute walk from my front door  Right behind my house we have a white mulberry tree which is at it's peak.  But I've also been able to take advantage of the numerous cherry trees and juneberry bushes that I've been able to identify in my immediate neighborhood and down along the Genesee River. I've also identified pear, peach, and apple trees which will ripen later in the season.  The majority of these trees are on public property, available to anybody who knows that they're edible and ready to be picked.  Unfortunately, much of the fruit doesn't get eaten, falling to the ground instead.  I would encourage anyone interested in fruit foraging to make sure you have a knowledgeable friend identify the fruit first, but there is an existing abundance within our City and I would encourage you to share in this public resource.

Now recognizing the already existing resources avaiable to us, I'd like you to consider what more could be done. The number of trees and bushes in the City of Rochester that produce food is miniscule compared to the large numbers of oaks, maples, pines, etc.  While these tree varieties have their place in an urban ecosystem, think about the impact that an increase of fruit producing trees could have on neighborhoods that have no grocery store or other access to fresh produce.  Instead of a trip to the store to purchase fruits (or more affordable, less nutritious foods), we could instead walk out our front door and pick an apple right off the tree.  For free.  It's pretty hard to argue with that.

The City of Rochester could take an active role in developing this public resource.  Almost every house in Rochester has a strip of land in front of it that is actually City-owned.  And we already plant trees there.  So when a tree comes down for whatever reason, how about we consider replacing them with a fruit tree? And our public parks would be another great place to plant. These are public lands and are meant to be used for the benefit of the public.  How about we start using them that way, instead of threatening to sell them off whenever budget season comes around.  Of course, we would likely have to engage in educating the general population about the availability of all this great food to make sure that none of it would go to waste.  But before long, I'm certain our communities would become part of the seasonal cycles that bring us our food, looking forward to the days of summer as I do.

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