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The Fruit Belt is Restored with an Endless Orchard of Fallen Fruit

Back in June, Buffalo Rising pondered if Buffalo could plant fruit trees in public spaces similar to the work of a Los Angeles organization, known as Fallen Fruit. It turns out that Fallen Fruit brought their project, Endless Orchard, to Buffalo this past May. University at Buffalo Senior Art Curator Rachel Adams organized a fruit tree planting project with Fallen Fruit co-founders and artists Austin Young (lead image, left) and David Burns (lead image, right). Fallen Fruit is based out of Los Angeles, with a mission of planting fruit trees and bushes in public parks and public spaces across the globe. 

Young and Burns have expanded their initiative worldwide from various cities in 15 states and countries, such as Mexico and Australia. Next spring they will be embarking upon their 35th city project in New Orleans. Their hopes are that the cities they visit will not only take on the initiative, but expand the project in all directions. “What if we got everybody to plant a fruit tree in front of their yards, and then map it at the Endless Orchard? We think of the Endless Orchard as a way that anybody anywhere could help change the world by taking a small action of just planting a fruit tree or mapping one that’s already in public space,” Young said. 

Endless Orchard is a tool to supplement this project. It tracks all public fruit trees on a map for people to locate the areas with fruit. When you plant a tree you can also add it to this map which can be accessed via the website endlessorchard.com/map or the Endless Orchard app. They also list all of the guidelines and instructions to care for the fruit tree at endlessorchard.com/guides

Rachel Adams said that when the organization came to Buffalo, more than 30 fruit trees were planted in the Fruit Belt neighborhood. “We planted apple, pear, plum, peach and cherry trees, along with blueberry bushes. Some were planted at Locust Street Art and across from Futures Academy and we had neighbors in the Fruit Belt ask for trees that we then planted in their front yards,” Adams said. 

This can be a powerful tool to combat insufficient food supplies while building a community. It’s very practical because everybody would have access to free healthy food, by planting a fruit tree or bush. Burns and Young are very passionate about their work and continue the chain reaction of providing fruit trees in cities through their hands-on activism. “A fruit tree can easily be productive, meaning bearing healthy organic fruit, for 50 years. And what’s remarkable about these fruit trees is that an apple tree or a plum tree, or whatever kind of tree you can basically think of – once they mature after five to seven years, this tree will produce 300-500 pounds of organic fruit. That staggering number changes the complete fabric of how a neighborhood functions. “By simply knowing that walking through a neighborhood, someone can grab an apple… it’s such a simple notion, but we are so removed from where our food comes from, that it is somehow not even a consideration. I mean, why should an apple come from 3,000 miles away, and why should it cost three to four dollars per pound? That just doesn’t make sense,” Burns said.

When the Young and Burns came to Buffalo, they chose the Fruit Belt to make their mark, since there is a history of growing fruit in that neighborhood. “The Fruit Belt is unique,” said Burns. “There are many neighborhoods in other cities that have a similar origin story as the Fruit Belt. It’s been a marginalized community. The way it was created was that of ‘being a communal place’. The fruit trees were planted to create a sustenance for that community – the trees were always there, until recent years. The elders of the community now, who grew up in that neighborhood… they remember all the trees and where they were. Many of the locations in which we planted trees again are from the memories of the elders. We put the same kind of trees back where they once stood.”

Young and Burns worked with Adams and several volunteers to guide the neighborhood in the planting of their trees. Young was inspired by the history and community spirit of Buffalo. “We planted a circle of cherry trees and some peaches – we planted peaches on Peach Street, and then we went door to door and met neighbors, and planted in front of their houses right next to the sidewalk and everyone agreed to care for these trees, and then we mapped them on the Endless Orchard,” Young said. 

Adams was thrilled with the end result of the project and will be working with Burns and Young to design outdoor flags, to be on display at the UB Anderson Gallery and around the city – especially in the Fruit Belt neighborhood.

“We will be tagging all the trees so that people know what type they are and who planted them. We’ve now collaborated with community members in the Fruit Belt, and will hopefully continue to do so. These trees are now part of the Endless Orchard, so anyone can go and find them using the website, and eventually the app,” Adams said. “I fully stand behind Fallen Fruit’s mission and am so happy we could bring this initiative to Buffalo to help invigorate the community through [something so simple yet powerful] – fruit.”

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