Guerrilla Grafters: A Refreshing Conflict

Photo: Tom Levy, tomlevy.net
Photo: Tom Levy, tomlevy.net
With all of the acute conflicts going on in the world — the Haves vs. the Have-Nots, climate change deniers vs. science, gun control advocates vs. the NRA, Caucasians vs. people of color, Jews vs. Muslims vs. Christians, etc. — conflicts of such great and often terrible consequences, how refreshing it was to read this morning about a conflict going down in San Francisco that is wonderfully small-scale, at least for now, and while some might call it trivial, I’d prefer to think of it as quaint, but not at all in a bad way.

Via the San Francisco Chronicle:

Hui and Goldberg are members of the Guerrilla Grafters, a loose-knit band of undercover orchardists blending farming and urban activism as a way to spark debate about the use of public space. For the past two years, the Grafters have been secretly attaching fruit-bearing branches, known as scions, to non-fruiting plum, pear and apple street trees.

City officials in San Francisco call their actions unlawful. Urban architecture connoisseurs call it groundbreaking: The grafters’ subversive project is being featured in the U.S. pavilion at the prestigious Venice Biennale’s 13th International Architecture Exhibition opening Wednesday.

Now, on the property of a house I used to live in, we had a couple of ridiculously prolific Italian plum trees, a pear tree, and an apple tree. As a result, every year in late summer and fall, so much fruit dropped in our yard, more than we could have ever consumed, we were never into canning, and so walking around the house was like navigating a minefield, one step, two steps, three steps, squish!

So, I kinda get the concern of SF city officials who worry, as the article states, of slip hazards from fruit falling on sidewalks and streets, BUT I tend to agree with the Grafters who argue:

“With grafts you only have a few branches that are bearing, and it’s really very manageable,” said Goldberg. The Grafters also say that stewards and gleaners can ensure that ripe fruit from trees they graft is safely harvested. They say they can also help maintain trees needing pruning, propping or watering.

This conflict says so much about urban life in the U.S. these days. A simple, natural and historically nourishing occurrence — fruit growing on trees — is seen as undesirable while poverty persists and gentrification pushes lower income residents out to the margins of the cities.

It’s not that middle and upper class urbanites don’t like fruit. It’s that they want it picked for them and neatly arranged in colorful displays at their local farmers market, evident by a 76% increase in the number of U.S. farmers markets from 2008 to 2014.

First World problems, indeed.

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