Web site matches urban fruit pickers

November 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Urban fruit gleaning is a growing trend nationwide. It's a combination of perfect factors -- someone with too much fruit on their tree who is willing to share it with their neighbor, or a stranger, and someone seeking local, fresh, free fruit that's in season.

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Jim Kelly's backyard lemon tree is a bountiful one, but that can cause a problem. "They just sort of eventually fall off the tree and onto the ground, so there's a lot of lemons here and there are only so many lemon bars I can eat," said Jim. So this San Francisco resident has found a solution. Meet Jocelynn and Rick Stone -- they've connected through a new, community Web site called www.NeighborhoodFruit.com . It helps match city residents who want to share their urban, fruit-bearing trees, with those seeking fresh, local, free fruit.

"Oh boy, these are heavy, they're full of juice," said Jocelynn.

"It is just a great chance to come and get some free lemons," said Rick.

The concept of sharing works both ways.

"I figure what comes around goes around, if I need plums or I need apples, I'll go to their Web site and find them," said Jim.

This time, Jim is the donor and has invited the Stones to his house.

"We like to see year-round fruit here in the city," said Rick.

They'll eat some, plus their eight-year old daughter Lillian will make good use of them -- she and her friends like to run a homemade lemonade stand and donate half the proceeds to local charity.

"Our mission is to promote an edible urban forest," said Neighborhood Fruit co-founder Oriana Sarac.

Sarac and Kaytea Petro are the founders of Neighborhood Fruit. It's a service they've discovered people of all socioeconomic backgrounds are enjoying.

"There's so much excess that a fruit tree has, it's around 100-125 pounds for a mature tree, more than they can eat, so this way people can have access to it," said Petro.

Since launching this year, the San Francisco-based company has mapped about 10,000 fruit trees in the U.S. Most who've registered their trees online so far live in the Bay Area, but the fruit to glean does not just grow in people's private backyards.

Neighborhood Fruit has identified 5,000 fruit-bearing trees and bushes on public land in San Francisco, like on a walkway near Dolores Park. You can pick plums, pears, even loquats, when they're in season.

The Web site allows registered fruit seekers to find fruit by zip code, distance, even fruit type and soon there will be an iPhone app available, which uses GPS to help locate public trees.

In the city of San Francisco, it is actually legal to pick the fruit that is hanging over the fence, but Neighborhood Fruit doesn't recommend it. They say it's more community friendly to knock on a door, say a friendly hello and ask for permission.

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