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Community Fruit Trees: Proposal for The Crossings HOA

What are we proposing?

Fruit trees, planted throughout the community, free for all residents to pick. Inspired by this:

Who wants this?

When this video was shared in our Facebook group, reactions were incredibly positive. 14 members showed a 👍 or ❤️, and 5 people commented positively.

image

Community endorsements:

Why do we want it? How does the community benefit?

Here are just some of the many reasons to plant community fruit trees:

  1. Free & Healthier Food for Residents
  2. By growing our own fruit, we can use natural, organic products for pest control—rather than the chemical pesticides, preservatives and waxes meant to extend store shelf life on most grocery store produce.

    The shorter the time between picking and eating, the more vitamins and nutrients fruit contains! Time naturally depletes these compounds, which means the most nutrient-dense fruit is the one picked moments ago.

    Rather than planting mesquites and palo verdes, having fruit trees would provide us with fresh, organic produce for the entire community—including those who can’t plant their own either because they don’t have the space, or because they rent.

  3. Decrease Our Carbon Footprint
  4. Not only do trees absorb CO2 emissions and turn it into fresh, clean oxygen, but by having our own fruit trees, we also reduce the demand for fruit shipped from faraway places, which contribute huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

    On top of that, significant shading from trees can drastically reduce A/C costs during the summer.

  5. Increase Property Value & Reduce Energy Costs
  6. All that shade also increases our property values, in addition to the ornamental value fruit trees contribute. They’re especially valuable (compared to non-fruiting trees) because they generate all that free food! By adding community fruit trees, the entire neighborhood will increase in property value, which benefits all residents long-term.

  7. Nurture & Protect Local Wildlife
  8. Trees are a haven for birds, squirrels, insects, and other animals necessary to the ecological balance of our beautiful state.

    When those beautiful blossoms burst open in spring and summer, they will attract beneficial insects & pollinators like native bees, butterflies, ladybugs, lacewings, etc. These beneficial insects then keep aphids and other pests under control in our own vegetable gardens, as well as pollinate our crops for more productive harvests.

Who would take on this project?

We have two options:

  1. Professionally managed
  2. There are a few “external” candidates we could go with, such as our current landscaping company as well as specialized services like Agriscaping, Herbal Lyf Style, or Niche Organic Gardens.

    Pros: Project is more likely to remain successful

    Cons: Increases community expenses

    Mitigation: Produce more than our community consumes, and sell excess at farmers market or donation-based in our own neighborhood (allowed?)

  1. Community managed
  2. Collectively, our community has plenty of knowledge on caring for and harvesting from fruit trees. We could create a new “Community Garden Manager” board seat to ensure the success of the project.

    Pros: Avoids professional management expenses

    Cons: Project could fall into disrepair if neighbors abandon it

    Mitigation: Switch to a professional service if needed to keep project successful

Where would they be planted?

As the video showed, the entire neighborhood is fair game. Many neighbors would be glad to host a fruit tree or two in their own front yards, and there’s ample shared space in which to plant.

At the least, we could pilot this idea with some trees in the center of the community—along the greenbelt area that already brings people together. (See image.)

Possible community fruit tree locations
Possible community fruit tree locations

How much would it cost?

  1. Cost of trees & install
  2. Tthere is a local importer called S & J Farms (just a mile south of us!) that offers bare-root trees at a fraction of nursery prices. From their website:

    These trees are the EXACT same trees that EVERY nursery here in the valley receive. We all order from the SAME place, Dave Wilson. No secrets here. We do something different, we purchase the biggest and thickest trunks that they will sell us. Yes those do cost more than our competitors trees cost them. But, these are the trees that we want to plant in our yards. We do NOT pot these trees up and charge you $80-$250. We leave them bare root exactly how they come to us.

    I personally bought 2 grape vines, 1 peach tree, and a raspberry for $105. Unreal. 🤯 All told, we’re looking at no more than $45 per tree. That would be just $450 for 10 trees.

  1. Cost of maintenance
  2. Watering & fertilizer — @Elizabeth Nelson find out 12 mo history of community water bill

    Professional maintenance costs — @Elizabeth Nelson find out current costs and get quote from our landscaping co for additional work (I can get the quote, just need to know the company details to reach out)

Challenges to design for

Two primary challenges have been brought up by neighbors:

  1. Responsible management
  2. It will take some planning as not everyone is responsible at watering and fertilizing.

    Tabitha Schmaltz:

    The problem you will have is that community fruit trees can be over picked by single party. Or by nobody at all and cause issues with pests. Much like a community garden, either everyone pitches in, or one party ends up doing all the work.
    I think if personal lots choose to host, it would be more effective, as they own the responsibility of the trees, including pruning, fertilizing, and harvesting. They can share if they choose to do so.
  3. Cost
  4. Jennifer Tweten says:

    I'm not really interested in paying for the trees, planting them or paying for/spending time on the up keep of trees. I don't really want to increase HOA costs to have the neighborhood care for them

    Basically it sounds nice, but someone would have to take responsibility for them, and I'm not wanting to expend time or money on community trees at this time.

    I already have 3 fruit trees in my own backyard and more than enough citrus fruit with plenty to spare every year. […] we are more than happy to share our fruit with the community and I would not be opposed to a community neighborhood fruit picking and/or sharing day

When would this take place? What are next steps?

If we order from S & J Farms, we can expect the trees to arrive in December and January. We’ll need to transport and plant them as soon as they arrive. We envision this timeline:

Sep-Oct: Board reviews proposal details, submits concerns. Community adjusts proposal as needed to address concerns, then board finalizes & approves.

Oct-Nov: Plan holes, irrigation, and maintenance

Nov-Dec: Dig holes & lay irrigation

Dec-Jan: Plant trees as soon as they arrive

Jan-onward: Maintain & grow

Conclusions

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Let’s bring all the benefits of community fruit trees to The Crossings this winter, for 2023 and beyond!