Trouble with Himalayan Blackberries at City Fruit

Hope Justesen, Freshman

City Fruit is a nonprofit organization that centers on urban fruit frees. The city of Seattle in particular is rife with vegetation including some old, hidden fruit trees that could be harnessed for a number of uses. City Fruit cultivates these trees creating urban orchards. City Fruit not only provides these services to the city but they also educate the local populace on fruit trees as many citizens have trees in their own backyards. The fruit produced by these trees is harvested by the origination and then given to local food banks.

During our service-learning trip this week we volunteered for city fruit at two separate locations. The first was on a hillside that once housed workers during World War II. Apple trees are growing in what used to be backyards. The second location was on an old railroad bed near the University of Washington along the 90-mile long Gilman Trail and Union Lake. At each location we had to deal with the invasive Himalayan Blackberry, which, let me tell you, is quite the nuisance. It’s prickly, grows like a weed, chokes fruit trees and unfortunately is in abundance in Seattle. In order to expand urban orchards, our first order of business was to get rid of the Himalayan Blackberries. At our first site we hacked away at long stems and raked the excess, leaving stalks to indicate where the next group of volunteers would need to dig up the root (because like the hydra, if you cut off on head, eight more grow back). While we won’t be around to see the fruit of our labors (pun intended), the hillside will one day be a sprawling urban orchard. At the second location we worked on a multitude of things ranging from more blackberry hacking to planting an apple tree.

When one thinks of an urban area one doesn’t think of green plants, rather one imagines concrete and skyscrapers. Seattle is unique in that it has a vast array of vegetation next to skyscrapers. One doesn’t have to walk to walk far to find p-patches, community gardens and parks. While I think this is an overall learning experience, during this trip City Fruit taught me a lot about waste. The idea of the organization itself is to reduce waste by giving fruit to people who need it. That idea is extremely cool! Fruit trees really do produce a lot, why not use them for feeding those in need?I’ve become more aware of what can be used and how it can benefit others.

Kayla DeJong, Freshman

My favorite activity we participated in this week was the time spent working with City Fruit. City Fruit is an organization that focuses on planting and maintaining fruit trees around Seattle. Some of the areas we worked at this week included a park and a trail.

While working with City Fruit our main focus was clearing away areas to plant fruit trees. We raked and shoveled away sticks and bramble, cut down and dug up Himalayan blackberry bushes, weeded the trail, and planted an apple tree.
I learned and experienced so many new things while working with City Fruit, including what City Fruit and other eco-centric organizations around the city do and how they have grown. I also learned quite a few facts fruit trees! However, the greatest thing I took away from working with City Fruit was a lesson in hospitality. Both days we worked with City Fruit, Barb and Natalie (the workers from City Fruit) went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and at home in Seattle. They chatted and shared with us, answered our questions, and even gave us a delicious spread of coffee, teas, and banana bread. Even though these gestures may seem small, they had a big impact on me and caused me to realize that even the simplest of actions go a long way. I look forward to taking these lessons back to South Dakota with me and seeing how I can apply them in my everyday life.

Nathan Bedoya, Senior

            While I enjoyed volunteering at each of the community partner locations, my work with City Fruit provided insight toward my role in sustainability efforts and a way to direct my skills into something that will help those in need.

City Fruit is working to cultivate urban fruit in order to nourish people, build community and protect the climate. They help tree owners grow healthy fruit and work to protect urban fruit trees. Our group’s role in accomplishing this mission was to remove invasive Himalayan Blackberry bushes and improve areas for existing and future fruit trees. My own sub-role in this mission was to cut and craft several paths of natural stairs into the hillsides we were working on.

As I did this, I began to notice that not only was I passionately engulfed with this task, but I was fairly good at it as well. Creating a strong foundation and level of security not only for us workers, but for the people that would eventually receive food from our actions, was genuinely satisfying. This realization that I am inclined to take a constructive and design orientated role has helped me understand how I can improve sustainability efforts and potentially the livelihood of others.

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