Guerilla Grafters bring fruit to the masses

Whoever said there was no such thing as a free lunch never met Tara Hui.

Hui is one of the founding members of the Guerrilla Grafters, a renegade agricultural group that grafts fruit-bearing branches onto public trees in the Bay Area for locals to enjoy for free.

Hui told Bay Nature that the organization’s goal is to “shift away from this notion of scarcity to a feeling of abundance.”

The volunteer-run organization has taken root in the Bay Area and, in the past year, has grown from a small handful of people to more than 100 volunteers across three different states. The urban movement has spread via the Internet with various teaching tips and ideas on where to add more branches. It’s even spread as far as the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Volunteers in the Bay Area collect branches from the California Rare Fruit Growers association or pick up donated branches from backyard gardeners and regional orchards.

Hui told Bay Nature that the idea for Guerrilla Grafters came from her frustration with her own neighborhood, Visitacion Valley, which she calls “a food desert” because there are no grocery stores and fresh produce is difficult to find.

While the group hasn’t received explicit permission to graft the trees, they haven’t received any negative feedback from city officials thus far.

Many cities have placed bans on fruit trees in public places because fallen fruit could pose a health hazard by attracting rodents and insects. In order to combat this issue, Guerrilla Grafters has volunteers agree to take care of each tree.

While most of the grafted trees are too young to bear any fruit, there is one in Hayes Valley that managed to sprout a couple of pears that were picked by a passerby. Hui said:

“Finding those pears probably made that person’s day. We encourage people to walk down the street and help themselves.”

Hui hopes someday the trees will produce enough produce to be able to donate it to local organizations that help people in need.

You can also check out the group’s Facebook page where they announce upcoming events and track the progress of their cherry and pear grafts.