Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Experience your neighborhood "fruitfully"

Among the many pleasures I've had working at ExperienceLA are the interesting and valuable tidbits I've learned about Los Angeles from our diverse network of cultural partners. Whether it's by attending an event, or simply through conversation with a partner, I seem to always learn something new about LA.

In our on-going coverage of the Silver Lake Jubilee, the organizers put me in touch with "Fallen Fruit," one of the participating vendors helping to celebrate the Silver Lake community, as well as the idea of "community" in general. (Pictured are the co-founders of Fallen Fruit)

I was very excited at the chance to learn about this organization and their approach to building a sense of community. After my interview with David Burns, one of three co-founders of "Fallen Fruit," I couldn't wait to grab a sack, put on my walking shoes and discover the Valley Village area. After reading this post, I hope it inspires many of you to do the same!

"Fallen Fruit" was founded in 2004 by three Silver Lake buddies (Burn, Matias Viegener and Austin Young) . Since then, the trio has introduced their philosophy on building and strengthening sustainable communities to countries, cities and neighborhoods all around the world. Their approach is amazingly (and in my opinion, beautifully) simple: public fruit trees.

According to David, in the city of LA, there are no laws governing how resources retrieved from public spaces are used.  So the idea behind FF - grab a small bag and perhaps a friend or family member, and head out to find your nearest public fruit tree or trees (a fruit picker may be handy if you have one). For starters, the FF website (http://www.fallenfruit.org/) has a handful of downloadable maps for select neighborhoods where you can find such trees (feel free to create your own if you can't find one for your neighborhood).  FF assures that fruit picked from public trees are generally safe to eat.

The maps are designed in a way that they create a scavenger hunt of sorts. All the trees on the map are organic and are on public property. The locations are generally mapped, meaning it will require you to keep your eyes peeled (pun intended) for the fruits you seek. The protocol for picking are simple: always ask before you pick (if you're uncertain whether it's a public tree) and be mindful/respectful of private property, pick only what you need, keep safety in mind, and remember to say hello to the other folks you meet along the way.

At Silver Lake Jubilee, festival goers will have the chance to take a fruit tree walking tour of both Silver Lake and the Sunset Junction area, as well as sample some fruit picked from the nearby public trees. There may even be a chance for a guided tour with a FF volunteer.

What a wonderful way to discover your neighborhood or a new neighborhood and meet new people! This idea also promotes a sustainable community in various ways as listed on the FF website. Fallen Fruit also hosts a variety of other events, such as public "jam" sessions (where you can pick your fruit and learn to make jam), public fruit tree adoptions, and Neighborhood Infusions (cocktail parties featuring drinks made with fruit from public trees), which can be found on their website.

One thing I thought was interesting (and makes complete sense) is that areas that were once agricultural are more likely to have fruit trees on public property. I learned that right down my street is a great stretch of public fruit trees, and that the area was once farmland. It's hard to imagine looking at it now, but it is nice to look at my streets in a different way. I can't help now but to look for publicly available fruit when my dog and I go for walks, and create a personal map for me and my husband.

"We want people to create their own maps and share them with us," David encourages.

So what are you waiting for? Go. Be fruitful!

ExperienceLA is a media partner for Silver Lake Jubilee, and this post is part of ongoing coverage in support of the event. Check back for more event news, and be sure to check out our previous posts.


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