Urban orchards pop up in San Francisco

Volunteers plant 200 fruit trees to mitigate greenhouse emissions and ensure food security

by Friday Apaliski

The San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFE), Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) and hundreds of volunteers have planted 200 fruit trees at 23 locations across San Francisco as part of the City’s Urban Orchards program.

Volunteer-plants-tree-Urban-Orchards-program-012613, Urban orchards pop up in San Francisco, Culture Currents San Francisco is leading the nation by using its Carbon Fund to plant fruit trees, which not only absorb and sequester greenhouse gasses but also improve the city’s built environment and bring together neighborhoods to help us be a more resilient and food-secure city.

“Each fruit tree planted represents almost half a ton of carbon removed from our atmosphere,” said Melanie Nutter, director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment. “By diversifying urban agriculture in San Francisco and expanding the number of urban orchards, we are taking steps forward to agricultural independence, while also mitigating our carbon emissions.”

The Urban Orchards program is coordinated by SFE with FUF as a partner for this latest planting effort. The program is primarily funded by San Francisco’s Carbon Fund, which is set up to support the City’s climate action program for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Additional funding for the trees comes from grants and private donations to FUF. FUF conducted a citywide application process seeking suitable locations for planting fruit trees and their experts identified 23 specific planting locations and assisted with tree selection.

On Jan. 26, FUF along with teams of volunteers delivered and planted several varieties of apple, Asian pear and plum trees known to thrive in San Francisco’s micro-climates. FUF will provide ongoing tree care for the next five years, until the trees are established. Tree stewards, those receiving the trees in this program, will handle regular tree care – primarily watering – and will harvest, eat and share the fruit within the neighborhood. Additionally, as part of the City’s food security plans, SFE will connect tree stewards with food pantries where they can share any excess fruit.

“Every time San Franciscans plant trees, they make the city a more sustainable, livable and beautiful place. When the trees also serve as a community food source, we really win big,” said Dan Flanagan, executive director, Friends of the Urban Forest.

Planting fruit trees will absorb and sequester carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. An added benefit includes aiding storm water retention, which reduces the burden on our combined storm-sewer system and the chance of polluted overflow into the San Francisco Bay. These fruit trees will also help develop a more robust local food supply, making the city more self-sufficient and adding to the thousands of fruit trees in San Francisco’s growing urban orchards.
Urban-Orchards-program-fruit-tree-planting-locations-0113, Urban orchards pop up in San Francisco, Culture Currents

About the SF Carbon Fund

The San Francisco Carbon Fund was created in 2009 to support public and private initiatives in the Bay Area that reduce or offset greenhouse gas emissions. The fund is supported by a 13 percent surcharge that City departments pay for employee air travel. San Francisco’s Local Carbon Fund has provided resources to the Urban Orchards program to assist community based nonprofit organizations in the City and County of San Francisco with planting and maintenance of publically accessible fruit trees.

About the Urban Orchards program

The Urban Orchards program selected Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) as its program partner to oversee fruit tree planting, maintenance through establishment, and ongoing monitoring and oversight of program trees. The individual grant was limited to a maximum of $30,000, awarded on a per-tree basis. Grant funding specifically covers the cost of purchasing fruit trees and related supplies, providing direct care through the establishment period of the trees, including pruning, and ensuring necessary daily care needs are met. In addition to identifying suitable planting locations, FUF will perform ongoing monitoring of program trees for health and longevity, replace any trees that fail, and provide periodic reporting on program trees to SFE.

To view a map of the tree planting sites and get more information about the Urban Orchards program, visit www.sfenvironment.org/orchards.

Friday Apaliski, outreach coordinator for the San Francisco Department of the Environment, can be reached at friday.apaliski@sfgov.org.