I hope that all of you had restful holidays and that the new year has brought excitement and hope for a bright and bountiful coming year. Happy 2023 and also, happy Year of the Rabbit/Cat for those who celebrate the Lunar New Year this weekend!
At City Fruit, we are excited to be entering into our 15th year as a community-based nonprofit focused on stewardship of urban fruit trees and addressing food insecurity through the harvesting and sharing of hyperlocal organic fruit. We start the year with adding three new staff members to our organization – Riley Wilmart (she/they), a 2022 UW Environmental Studies graduate who serves as our Programs and Special Projects Coordinator; Bennett Walkes (he/they), a 2022 Brown Environmental Science graduate who joins as our incoming Harvest and Tree Stewardship Program Coordinator; and Ethan Cory (he/him), a University of Mary Washington Business Administration graduate who is fluent in Spanish and has previously worked in restaurants, Goodwill, and One Fair Wage in Maine.
In these roles, Riley will be supporting tree and fruit shrub plantings in High Point, Fremont, and McAuliffe, continuing our Urban Fruit Guardians K-5 youth program, and building our fruit diversion efforts. Bennett will be expanding our harvest operations and partnerships into Bellevue, Kirkland, and Burien and furthering our stewardship of public orchards across King County. Ethan, who will serve as an Americorps VISTA this year, will be supporting our communication and resource development efforts, and hopefully help us continue to strive for equity and access in food systems and for workers who help grow and harvest food.
Reach out if you have questions or want to partner on these projects or would like to donate fruit from your trees in the east or south. We are excited for the energy, heart, and expanded capacity they bring to our organization, and are happy that our small but mighty crew has now grown to 6 staff and 1 Americorps volunteer! Thank you to community members who donated to us last year and funding from the Washington State Dept of Agriculture, Americorps, and the Rose and Goode Foundations that helped us develop these positions!
Kicking off 2023, we continue our collaboration with UW’s Environmental Studies program by hosting Winter Intern Taylor Thao. Taylor’s capstone research project involves analyzing our data of fruit harvesting over the last few years to spot any trends in fruit production or responses to climate change we can note anecdotally. We hope that we may start asking questions and proposing some ideas about what the future of urban fruit may look like in our region – or at least contribute some citizen science observations that can help future researchers.
Last year, while fruit production was down across the region, we were still fortunate enough to harvest fruit that we could distribute to local food banks and process into baked goods and jams to donate at our 20 Fruit-for-Alls and through our community partners’ meal and food distribution programs. This year, with weather forecasted to be similar to last year, we are doing our best to prepare by finding ways to promote pollinators, getting more pruning done on public and private lands to help spur the health of trees, and looking at ideas to help fruitlets make it through a late cold snap (like last year’s). Our Fruit Tree Specialist Julian Garcia is currently on his way to picking up more netting material so that we can help tree owners net their trees and protect them from pest damage this spring. If you are interested in receiving tree care services, please reach out now to schedule and reserve, as last year, we ran out of netting by early May! Julian enters his third year of working with tree owners to learn how to care for their fruit trees and providing services like pruning, netting, and grafting.
Our volunteer and education programs continue to thrive under our Volunteer and Education Programs Manager Tiare Gill, who also celebrates her third harvest with us this year! If you have not had the opportunity to work with Tiare, I encourage you to consider looking at our events calendar or reaching out directly with any group volunteer requests. We have lots of great activities to connect you to our urban fruit canopy – and still have time to add a few more events the rest of the year. Tiare’s deep love and commitment to continue learning about fruit trees will also be inspiring our Master Fruit Trees Stewards program this year – which is back to its pre-pandemic enrollment numbers already! We still have slots if you are interested in applying by Jan 31.
Finally, I am happy to also say that Jordyn Egbert, who started with us two years ago as an Americorps VISTA, continues to lend her dedication to stabilizing and growing our organization. She has begun a new role as our first full-time Development Manager – and already has plans underway for a new harvest kickoff event (pub trivia based on fruit at Halcyon Brewing on Wednesday, May 10 with prizes for winning teams!), expanding our membership program, and building connections with our current donors and foundation supporters.
As we enter our 15th year with this inspirational and hardworking team, we renew our commitment to our community and to the trees we steward and harvest. I am excited for our next 15 years, and thank all who have helped and continue to make our City Fruit mission possible. We send you much love, hope, and wishes for prosperity and look forward to working in community with you this year!