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Urban Gleaners

People who try to find fruit trees for food in forgotten, uncared for, urban areas.

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Urban Gardeners and Gleaners: From Squirrels to Guerillas

  • Aug 7, 2009
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Rating:
+5
The squirrels have already begun to eat the pears in our backyard, even though the fruit are only about two inches long and hard as rocks.Last year we had a bumper crop from our two trees at the back of our 25 by 100 foot lot, so I don’t know how many we’ll get this year, especially since we cut the trees back significantly last fall. But the pear bits littering the ground, as well as the apple munchings in the lane from the apple tree across the way remind me of what a bonanza cities are for urban eaters.

A Montreal newspaper recently featured a trio of stories about people who glean and garden in the center of the city. One story featured a young woman who spends all her time searching for food growing in the interstices of the city—“It’s my job,” she’s quoted as saying. Also featured were a woman in Toronto who is raising bees in hives of the top of the Royal York Hotel as well as pioneers trying to persuade municipal authorities to allow chickens in residential neighborhoods. Then there are the young folk who make seed bombs—a mixture of compost, seeds and earth which are propelled into vacant lots and the edges of roadway and railroads to begin gardens in waste land.

Urban gleaners are found  more and more frequently, to judge from a story last fall in The New York Times.  It old how a young woman pushing her baby in a stroller around Berkeley discovered masses of fruit on neighborhood trees going to waste.  That was the beginnning of the North Berkeley Harvest. In the Silicon Valley, the story said, Village Harvest  uses "sophisticated databases and remote telephone answering systems to track the group's 700 or so volunteers, 40 receiving organizations, 1,000 fruit-inundated homeowners."

Then there's the community garden movement: in Montreal more than 90 of them on various plots of land around the city provide small parcels for apartment dwellers. They can grow some flowers, but the main thrust is food. It’s a great initiative, with waiting lists and marvelous, well-loved garden plots.  I think the one pictured here has solved the squirrel problem, too: the last time I was by there were a pair of majestic looking cats patrolling and not a squirrel in sight.

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August 07, 2009
I didn't know about the concept of urban gleaning, or gleaning at all until I read this review, which I'm surprised about since I've lived around the Berkeley area for so long.  Dumpster diving is really prevalent among the younger hippies around here, but gleaning sounds like a MUCH better idea.  Thanks for once again enlightening me with your review, Mary! :)
 
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About the reviewer
Mary Soderstrom is a Montreal-based writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her new collection of short stories, Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography, will be published by Oberon Press in November, … more
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Urban gleaners are people who try to find food in urban areas for uncared for fruit trees in vacant lots and forgotten gardens.  Urban gardens are any garden tucked into an urban space.
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