In the past 50 years, the Community Gardening Movement has grown enormously in the US and around the world, transforming vacant lots in gray urban neighborhoods into thriving green spaces. Usually, the planting and tending of a community garden is a small local affair. But what if the community garden was blown up to a national or even global scale, creating a huge, ever-growing network of edible flora tended by the public?
That’s the idea behind “The Endless Orchard,” “a sustainable, edible, living public artwork” currently raising funds on Kickstarter. Los Angeles-based artists David Burns and Austin Young, who collaborate under the name Fallen Fruit, are encouraging any and all people everywhere to plant and digitally map interconnected, walkable trails of fruit trees in their cities, creating a vast maze of edible greenery. The artists’ goal is to create “the largest and most generous collaborative public artwork in the world” — one that would provide environmental benefits and free snacks for passersby, too.
The pair is starting out by planting 200 fruit trees in the “food desert” area surrounding Los Angeles Historic State Park, and inviting others to do the same. The fruit trees are tagged with basic information, indicating when the tree will be ripen and that the fruit is for sharing with others. “We hope that it could really go on forever,” Young tells Hyperallergic, “meaning that people could just carry on for years and plant fruit trees in the margins of public spaces and in interstitial municipal spaces anywhere for everyone to share.”
What makes “The Endless Orchard” qualify as “art” and not just a regular bunch of trees? The artists say that the collaborative, open-sourced nature of the project and the use of “fruit as a transcultural symbol of sharing” are intended to challenge traditional ideas of public space and public resources. The tree trails will also be visualized in an imaginative digital component to the project: On both EndlessOrchard.com and an “Endless Orchard” mobile app that Fallen Fruit plans to launch, the public can map the winding tree trails to reveal where to pick free, fresh fruit. People can also attach photos of their plantings, send messages to the trees, and upload artwork, poems, videos, or stories tagged to each tree location. “It’s like Easter eggs or putting ornaments on a holiday tree — but accessible to the entire world through the magic of the internet,” Young says.
The project still hasn’t reached its funding goals, so it remains to be seen whether enough people will be willing to invest the time and commitment needed to make “The Endless Orchard” a reality. “When we plant in an Urban Fruit Trail in a city, we ask Parks and Recreation, residents, a neighborhood group or a school to be guardians for the fruit trees for a minimum of three years to ensure that it is cared for and watered in drier months,” Young explains.
The idealistic project and the name “Fallen Fruit” draw inspiration from an ancient Roman law, as well as an Old Testament passage in Leviticus: “Nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger,” it reads. “To us, it’s inspiring to think that as people, we should leave some of what we have and part of who we are for others we many never know,” Young says. “We extended this idea to realize that the most important person in the world will likely be someone you will never know.”
“The Endless Orchard” is fundraising on Kickstarter through January 20.