“If 100% of the people were farming, it would be ideal.” — Masanobu Fukuoka
I grow a half-dozen fruit trees along my 40-foot stretch of sidewalk. The generous fig tree just finished, two young apple trees and a pomegranate are full of bounty, and the kumquat and persimmon are ripening. As much as I love the simple act of orcharding, I’m also sharing a radical vision for food and economy in my suburban Los Angeles community of Altadena. What if all my neighbors grew food in their yards, too? What if we shared the bounty with each other? What if you could eat a delicious, varied, and healthy meal from the abundance provided by your neighborhood trees?
Forty percent of the food produced in the part of the planet we call the U.S. is wasted. Much of this waste ends up in landfills, where it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The food–climate nexus is a window into a deeply broken system; studying it — and experimenting with alternative economics within our communities — can reveal solutions that benefit everyone.
Consider the gift economy, brilliantly on display every Sunday in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, California. Pancho Ramos-Stierle is a driving force behind this free community farm stand, FrutaGift, which is painted in the colors of the season.
For over six years, Ramos-Stierle and his friends have gone to a local farmers market after closing time to help farmers clean and pack up. Farmers began offering their unsold organic fruits and vegetables for Ramos-Stierle to bring to the people in his neighborhood. Using this produce, he and his friends cook a sumptuous vegan meal that they bring the following week to share with the tired workers. A circle is created; everyone benefits. There is bounty and gratitude.
And yet, FrutaGift is just one part of a larger gift economy. Ramos-Stierle’s inspiration was the Free Farm Stand in the Mission District in San Francisco, started decades ago by a man named Tree. Says Ramos-Stierle, “I still remember the sense…