Guerrilla Grafting: Adding Fruit-Bearing Branches to Public Trees

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A group of guerrilla grafters are secretly grafting fruit-bearing scions onto ornamental, non-fruiting trees in San Francisco.

For the past two years a group that calls themselves the Guerrilla Grafters have been working to bring edible trees back to the San Francisco streets. San Francisco is lined with pear, plum, and apple trees, so where is the fruit? Out of concern that the fruit would attract rodents and cause a mess, the city made sure to only plant sterile, non-fruiting trees.

California is known to have many homeless and low-income people who cannot afford healthy fruit and produce. The Guerrilla Grafters, started by Tara Hui, provide city dwellers with fresh, free fruit by grafting fruit-bearing branches onto non-fruiting trees. They do this by making a slit with a knife in a branch of the host tree and inserting a branch from a fruit-bearing tree. They secure the two together with tape, and once it heals, it connects, and the fruit bearing branch becomes part of the tree. The Guerrilla Grafters use color-coded electrical tape to mark their handiwork, yet they do not disclose the location of their grafting interventions out of fear that the city will remove them.

According to city officials, the Guerrilla Grafters are breaking the law by grafting city trees. Yet, their actions have been celebrated by many proponents of urban agriculture. The motto of the group is “undoing civilization one branch at a time”, and they consider themselves to be radical farmers, attempting to fight food scarcity and provide good, healthy food for all. Guerrilla Grafters strive to bring our world closer to creating a habitat that sustains each and every one of us, because fresh fruit and vegetables should be a human right.

On their website, Guerrilla Grafters have manuals on how to graft trees and how to get involved with the urban farming movement. They also work with various artists and do workshops on how to create an edible wilderness in your city. The group has attended the Open Street Dork, ISEA2015, Spontaneous Interventions, and the Venice Biennale 2012. They also have a map that shows where trees have been grafted and where there are edible plants and fruit within your city.

Photo by Thomas Levy. guerrillagrafters.org

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