What was the inspiration for the creation of Forage Oakland?
Forage Oakland began in the spring of 2008, and was borne out of my desire to continue the work of Temescal Amity Works, which was a fruit harvesting & social practice project created by two neighborhood artists, Susanne Cockrell and Ted Purves. Temescal Amity Works was a multi-year project that took place between July 2004 and January 2007, and was funded through grants from the Creative Capital Foundation, Creative Work Fund, and the Oakland Arts Commission-funded project had a reading room on 49th St., which was a lively hub of activity for Temescal residents. Sadly, I learned of Temescal Amity Works just as it was wrapping up; so sadly, was never directly involved. I like to think that Forage Oakland is a kindred project of Temescal Amity Works.
I began Forage Oakland after spending four years in the Bay Area, and each season becoming more enamored by the bounty that exists in our backyards. Not only was I struck by the bounty, but I was also struck by the attendant waste of backyard fruit. This waste generally results from a family’s inability to keep pace with the fruit tree’s ripening of fruit, which often happens over the course of a few days, leaving residents little time to gather friends and neighbors to aid in the harvest. Many North Oakland residents actively share their backyard fruit with their neighbors, but even so, redistributing fruit remains a challenge. I began to consider various ways to harvest and equitably redistribute the fruit, and thus, Forage Oakland was borne.
How are members recruited?
In the early days, I canvassed north Oakland neighborhoods by foot and bicycle and jotted down the addresses of residential fruit trees. I then followed up with many of these households with a note to inform residents about the service. This website and a number of articles in the local and national press also increase awareness of the project and help grow membership.
Where is Forage Oakland active?
Forage Oakland serves North Oakland neighborhoods including Temescal, Golden Gate, Rockridge, Piedmont, and Bushrod. There are a handful of gleaning projects which harvest residential fruit trees throughout the Bay Area.
What is the relationship between Forage Oakland and Forage San Francisco?
If you have an early Forage Oakland business card, it might read “Forage Oakland: Forage San Francisco”, since the original idea was to harvest fruit on both sides of the Bay. It only took a few late night treks to pick up mission figs and Bartlett pears for me to realize that I’d have to narrow my focus.
At the same time, though, Iso Rabins started ForageSF, which happens to have a similar name to this project, although the two are not related. Forage Berkeley is a crowdsourced fruit tree mapping project, which was, incidentally, co-founded by my husband.
What fruits are commonly bartered within the Forage Oakland network?
Here is a full list of all fruits (and nuts) traded within the Forage Oakland network:
apples, apricots, Asian pears, avocado, blackberries, elderberries, elderflowers, eureka lemons, fennel, figs, fuyu persimmons, grapefruit, hachiya persimmons, huckleberries, loquats, Meyer lemons, mulberries, nectarines (white), olives, oranges, passion fruit, peaches, pears, pineapple guava, plums, prickly pear, quince, sour cherries, tamarillo, walnuts (green)
Do you trade vegetables as well?
We’re specifically interested in redistributing backyard fruit, but I’d recommend contacting Neighborhood Vegetables if you have surplus veggies you’d like to share.
Can you explain a bit about the jam and marmalade exchanges?
These events are open to the public and are a chance to share The marmalade and jam exchanges are an opportunity to trade surplus homemade preserves with one’s neighbors, and to meet neighbors one may not otherwise have met. These events are festive, casual, and open to the general public (not only Forage Oakland members).
How do I start a chapter in my own neighborhood?
Email me at forageoakland [at] gmail [dot] com if you would like to start a chapter of Forage Oakland. If you live outside of Oakland and would like to start a harvesting group using the Forage Oakland model, please email me as well, and I’d be happy to offer guidance.
Do you always ask for permission before picking fruit?
Yes, I do always ask before I harvest from private property. Part of the mission of Forage Oakland is to build community within North Oakland, using excess fruit as an entry point. Often, laden branches hang over public sidewalks, in which case one can use his or her discretion in deciding whether to ask permission before harvesting. As a general policy, I always ask before harvesting. Asking to harvest from your neighbor’s fruit tree could be the first step in eventually building a relationship with said neighbor. One could choose to bypass this step, but also never know what could have come from that small intervention.
Is it ok in California to pick fruit if the branches hang over onto public property?
Yes, if a particular branch hangs over a public sidewalk, it is lawful to harvest the fruit of said branch. However, if the tree is growing on private property, I still consider it a courtesy to ask permission before harvesting.