Of Friends and Fruit


Some years ago, a young, sorta-hippyish couple knocked on my front door. They had noticed I had fig trees in the yard laden with summer fruit. If I wasn’t going to pick them all, they asked, could they harvest some? Since I was about to take a trip, I said sure, have at ’em.

Upon my return, as I stood at the door fumbling for my keys, I looked down to find two jars of delicious fig jam.

A little common neighborliness can be enriching in so many ways.

I remembered my happy fig exchange recently when I read that a fast-growing, underground fruit economy is spreading in cities across America. It’s called urban fruit foraging. It’s organized by folks who look around their neighborhoods and see trees bearing an abundance of apples, plums, oranges, pomegranates and other delights—an abundance that goes largely unpicked.

In Oregon, the Portland Fruit Tree Project’s database tracks 300 trees ripe for picking. The owners sign up, then alert foragers so a harvest can be scheduled. Noting that one can eat only so many apples, one of the project’s organizers says, “A fruit tree is really made for sharing with your neighborhood.”

Others share with food banks or form backyard fruit co-ops, or distribute citywide maps of available fruit, or … well, come up with your own idea. To help guide you, here are a few Web sites: fallenfruit.org, forageoakland.blogspot.com, neighborhoodfruit.com and veggietrader.com.

Winds Of Change

Having wandered without hope in the desert of George W’s environmental policies for the past eight years, we welcome even small signs of policy shift like a long drink of cool water.

In recent days, three signs of change wafted over us, all involving mining. The first was the two-year moratorium that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar imposed on new uranium mines adjacent to the Grand Canyon. Yes, the Bushites had opened the door to profiteering corporations eager to sink thousands of uranium mine shafts into the area’s public lands. Salazar’s move could lead to a permanent ban.

Second, the winds are shifting on the 1872 mining law, which lets corporations dig into public lands for gold, copper and other valuables. They extract huge profits for themselves, but—get this—they pay no royalties, nor do they have to pay for cleaning up the poisonous mess they leave behind. Obamacans are moving reform of this absurd bit of corporate welfare to the top tier of their agenda.

Third, the despicable mining technique known as mountaintop removal, used by thuggish coal giants operating in Appalachia, has drawn opposition from a Republican senator. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has signed on as co-sponsor of a bill to ban the method, which is destroying ancient mountains and pristine streams. In retaliation, a few mining outfits are trying to bully Alexander by boycotting corporate travel to Tennessee. Undaunted, Alexander replied that tourists come to his state “to see our scenic mountains whose tops have not been blown off.”

We’re not out of the desert yet, but these small signs suggest a good change of direction.

For more information on Jim Hightower’s work—and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown—visit www.jimhightower.com.