Guest post by Sally Parlier
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” – Audrey Hepburn
On Saturday, November 14, Community Food Lab partnered with local organizations, community residents, and volunteers to plant fruit trees in South Park, here in Raleigh. Meanwhile, many people around the world were (and still are) grieving from attacks in Paris and Beirut. Our labor of love with City Fruit might seem small in comparison to the global news, but the juxtaposition also reflects the importance of building healthy communities. Planting fruit trees is an investment in the future—the bare branches we see today will eventually bear delicious food. In the meantime, our “belief in tomorrow” is the reason we prioritized planting perennial plants that will produce fruit annually for many years.
In planting our apple trees, fig trees, blueberry bushes, and blackberry canes, Community Food Lab, GrowRaleigh, Awesome Foundation, Greenscape, and volunteers were making a statement about the kind of community that we want Raleigh and our world to be. At various community gardens and homes, these trees will make fresh fruit freely available to many. They will teach others about seasonal availability and just how good berries picked right at ripeness can be.
As the Greenscape volunteers and I planted trees at the Passage Home Community Garden, the non-profit’s chef and case manager Ann stopped by to take a look at our work. She exclaimed, “I’m going to cook with these someday!” and picked up information about caring for the trees. One resident carefully selected the location of her blackberry bush in her backyard, envisioning that the location on the fence would allow her neighbors to be able to easily pick berries as well. Another community member commented that there is no reason the whole neighborhood can’t be full of fruit trees. Although it will take time to bear fruit, these fruit trees and bushes are already becoming part of a community member’s vision of the neighborhood.
At all of the planting sites, groups of volunteers who were strangers in the morning found common ground while digging up the earth. At the end of the day, volunteers asked for each other’s contact information to stay in touch as friends and acquaintances. Several asked when the next City Fruit planting day would be.
Although we never could have guessed what global events would precede our community fruit tree planting day on November 14, they served as a powerful reminder of purpose beyond providing healthy, accessible, and tasty food and bringing attention to issues of food justice in Raleigh. In volunteering to work with our community, we dedicated ourselves to community resiliency, sustainability, and vitality.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I will think of Ann and the people of Passage Home. I’ll imagine the apple pies and blueberry cobblers made with City Fruit that in a few years will anchor the Thanksgiving table and nourish our community not only in body, but also in spirit.