Press


Project Tree Phase One Complete

Alameda Sun – Eric J. Kos
May 11, 2017

Photos by Marla Koss Matthew Tisdale and one of his sons plant a fuji apple tree they received at no charge courtesy of this newspaper and the Alameda Backyard Growers.

Now Entering: Phase Two
The pilot year for Project Tree is entering its second phase of development this year, thanks to Alameda Backyard Growers tree-planting guru Marla Koss. Marla and I put together the initial concept for Project Tree last year. The Alameda Sun donated the seed money required to launch the program, which resulted in 34 new trees being planted in the city.

The new phase will likely involve a change in how trees are distributed, relying on a coupon-type system and involving two nurseries in Alameda: Encinal Nursery and Ploughshares Nursery. Details on how local residents can obtain trees will be worked out soon.

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Project Tree Taking Root

Alameda Sun – Eric J. Kos
Thursday, December 29, 2016

Earlier this year the Alameda Sun presented the Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) with a specific donation for a specific purpose (“Project Tree Seeded,” April 14). The idea was to seed a tree planting program in Alameda that would help restore and maintain the city’s urban forest.

Since January, Marla Koss of the ABG, who you might call a fruit tree scientist, has established groundwork for planting 29 trees in various locations around the city as the Project Tree pilot program.

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Alameda Backyard Growers Turns 5

Alameda Sun, Sun Staff
Thursday, April 9, 2015

Five years ago, Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) sprouted its first tender shoots when 30 friends and neighbors gathered at High Street Station to talk about gardening and how to share extra produce from their yards with the Alameda Food Bank.

Today, ABG stays in contact with around 600 local gardeners and enjoys a regular attendance of 40 or more people at its monthly gardening workshops held at Rhythmix Cultural Works. The group’s Project PICK team picks thousands of pounds of fruit from local trees every year to donate to the food bank. ABG provides community education at special events year-round.

ABG board members and volunteers have been active in the city’s planning efforts for the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park and the Alameda Community Garden, which will be located in the park. The two groups are collaborating to bring a special program to the community as ABG celebrates its fifth anniversary.

Friends, supporters and dedicated volunteers are invited Sunday, April 12, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Trident Room, at Albert H. DeWitt Officers’ Club, 641 West Red Line Ave.

Guest speakers will be Bill Maynard, president of the American Community Garden Association, and Sam Foushee, coordinator of the Emeryville Community Organic Garden.

Alameda Recreation and Parks Department is hosting the event with support from Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information, call 239-PICK, email alamedabackyard growers@gmail.com, or visit ABG’s web site at www.alamedabackyardgrowers.org.


Transforming Food Policy Through Science from Coast to Coast

by Michael Halpern, program manager, Center for Science & Democracy
April 21, 2014

Here’s a link to the original article.

From Let’s Move! to farmers markets, the conversation about how public health science is informing and leading to healthier food policies and food environments is growing. And at every level, good things are happening. Leading up to the May 6 Science and Democracy Forum on “Science, Democracy, and a Healthy Food Policy,” we asked for examples of people using scientific and public health evidence to improve food environments. Here’s a flavor of some of the work highlighted in your responses:

In Alameda, California, the Alameda Backyard Growers have a simple motto: ”Grow community, one veggie at a time.” Gardeners work together to collect surplus fruits and vegetables to donate to the local food bank, so healthy food is accessible to all. In addition, the organization offers free sustainable permaculture lectures, and opportunities for community members to learn about local water management policies and how to reduce water consumption while still producing food.

Transition Fidalgo & Friends is developing a transition community in Anacortes, Washington, practicing resilience and sustainability through education and skill-sharing. Concerned about the environmental and health impacts of produce that is shipped to the grocery store from across the country or world, the organization teaches community members to grow their own gardens for a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

The Sustainable Food Center is working to strengthen the local food system in Austin, Texas so everyone can have access to healthy, affordable food. In-house experts discuss the science behind sustainable agriculture and organic farming, and detail how these practices can reduce food insecurity while helping the environment. Programs include education and resources for home gardening, farmers markets, and farm-to-cafeteria and farm-to-school programs.

At the nexus of policy and practice, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has for for almost 25 years developed policies that benefit farmers, consumers, communities and the environment. For example, the institute’s work in sustainable agriculture is based on agroecology principles  that promote soil health and fruitful crops and reduce the environmental impacts of farming.

At the May 6 public forum, we will highlight work in several communities to share innovative ideas and practices with others throughout the country.

About the author: Michael Halpern is an expert on political interference in science and solutions to reduce suppression, manipulation, and distortion of government science.


ABG on Bay Area Focus TV

ABG on Bay Area FocusJanice Edwards (co-founder) and Jillian Saxty (board member) appeared on Bay Area Focus on Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 8AM (Channel 44). Host Michelle Griego interviewed them about how Alameda Backyard Growers began as a group and what impact it’s having today in Alameda. Janice and Jill agreed that it was a good thing to do. Neither had ever been in a TV studio before so that was interesting and they enjoyed meeting the three other guest ‘groups’  and learning about their non-profit work. The Bay Area Focus people were great. Michelle was warm and friendly and easy to talk to. Of course it was impossible to say everything you needed to say in a 5 minute interview but overall it went really well.

Here’s a link to the Bay Area Focus Facebook page and the ABG interview.


Sweeney Park’s first community cleanup draws hundreds

InsideBayArea.com – by Laura Casey, Correspondent

Here’s a link to the original article.

Jean Sweeney Open Park cleanupAbout 300 people showed up to the first cleanup effort at the Jean Sweeney Open Space Preserve Saturday, lending hands to spread mulch, remove prickly weeds, build demonstration planter boxes and paint whimsical murals in a part of the park near the city’s food bank on Thau Way.

Service Day at Jean Sweeney Open Space Park began at 10 a.m. and wrapped up around 4 p.m. Kids, teens and adults all participated in the event, sponsored by Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan’s office and local businesses, at the city’s newest park.

“I came because I thought it would be great community bonding time and it’s great to hang out with friends and volunteer too,” William Schaff, 14, said as he spread earthy scented mulch along dry ground with a rake. “This area wasn’t being used or maintained properly so it’s good for Alameda that we’re cleaning it up.”

It was a warm, sunny day — nearly perfect weather for some physical activity in a park that has gathered tons of interest over the past few years. On one side of the relatively small area of the 22-acre park, volunteers painted murals with rainbows, birds and marching elephants to override the graffiti that usually plagues the drab concrete wall that borders the park. Teams of workers cut wood and screwed together planter boxes that will resemble the 70-plus plots that will be offered to growers once the park is funded and irrigated.

The park was filled with volunteers from Alameda Backyard Growers who held talks about gardening throughout the day. When the park allows for plots to be leased to gardeners, some of the food grown will go to the city’s food bank, said Alison Limoges, an Alameda County Master Gardener and member of the Alameda Backyard Growers.

“Volunteering today was a no-brainer because of my love of volunteering and my love of this community,” she said.

Alameda Recreation and Parks Director Amy Wooldrige said she hopes to hold a park cleanup day like this one every year, though some volunteers were hoping for a monthly event.

“I am always continually impressed by the community of Alameda and how much they want to help with this park,” she said.

Residents gave opinions on what they want the space, known as Sweeney Park, to be more than a year ago. It was decided that the space will have walking and biking trails, natural open space, picnic areas, community gardens, natural play spaces and open lawns. A tentative Master Plan has been circulating around the city and officials have gotten feedback that residents want the park less developed than what’s currently in the drawings, Wooldrige said. A final design will go back to the Alameda City Council for approval in April.

The park will take millions to develop and it is currently unfunded, Wooldridge added. While money is found through grants and donations, residents like park board member Tom Schweich are enjoying the space through cleanup events like the one on Saturday. Schweich is a hobby botanist and talked about the coastal live oaks that dot the landscape, trees that are protected by the city’s charter.

“This park is a wonderful opportunity for Alameda,” he said. “It’s the city’s version of Central Park. It really could be.”

 

 


‘Urban harvesting’ takes root in Bay Area

San Jose Mercury News – by Paul Rogers

Here’s a link to the original article.

For years, Barbara Stackhouse would go out every spring with her husband, Richard, to pick oranges from three big trees in her backyard in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood. The couple would give the juicy navels and Valencias to friends, family members and neighbors.

But as they got older, climbing ladders and hauling down all those oranges wasn’t possible any more.

“They fall. The squirrels eat them. I had to put three bagfuls in the garbage on Sunday,” said Stackhouse, 85, now a widow. “If somebody can use them, that’s a lot better than having them fall on the ground.”

Working to take backyard fruit that otherwise would go to waste, a growing “urban harvesting” movement is sending dozens of volunteers out every week into Northern California neighborhoods to pick fruit from thousands of residential fruit trees from willing homeowners and donate it to charity.

The largest of the nonprofit groups, called Village Harvest, recently visited Stackhouse’s yard. A dozen volunteers removed 1,012 pounds of oranges from her leafy trees. The next day, the fruit was distributed to homeless shelters, senior programs and other charities through Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

“It’s fun. Somebody has to do it. Otherwise, it goes to waste. And there’s no reason to waste food,” said Bud Pyle, the team leader on the picking job at Stackhouse’s home.

Village Harvest started in Palo Alto in 2001, when 22 volunteers picked 1,200 pounds of oranges, lemons and other fruit from nine backyards and donated it to an East Palo Alto food bank. Since then, the group has picked more than 1.5 million pounds of fruit, benefiting more than 100,000 people.

“It’s based on the simple idea that there is an incredible natural abundance here — all the fruit growing on trees in people’s yards — and a need,” said Craig Diserens, executive director of Village Harvest.

An unknown trend a decade ago, today there are more than 100 urban harvest groups nationwide.

San Francisco has an “urban gleaning program” run through its city public works department. In the East Bay, the Urban Farmers, based in Lafayette, and Alameda Backyard Growers in Alameda harvest backyard fruit donations for food banks. Similar groups have sprung up in Fresno, Long Beach, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Orange County.

Diserens, who founded Village Harvest with his wife, Joni, is a former project manager at Hewlett-Packard and other high-tech companies. Through the use of databases, Web maps and other computer tools, he has organized 1,200 volunteers into an efficient fruit-picking army that completes 15 to 20 harvests a month from Gilroy to Daly City, turning the San Jose-based group into a national leader in the fledgling movement.

Village Harvest’s volunteers come from churches, community groups, private companies, schools and other organizations. All year round, they pick oranges, apples, lemons, grapefruits, plums, apricots, persimmons and other fruit, and donate it to about 15 nonprofits that provide meals to low-income Bay Area residents.

“When school is out, children don’t have access to free and reduced-priced lunches and breakfasts,” said Jonathan Doherty, a spokesman for Second Harvest Food Bank. “Kids go hungry when school is out. Village Harvest gives us a lot of oranges, and oranges are a great source of vitamin C.”

Second Harvest distributes the fruit and other food to 300 groups, including the Palo Alto Family YMCA, Half Moon Bay Meals on Wheels, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in San Jose, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Clara County in Milpitas.

“There’s something about the bounty of sharing with others,” Doherty said. “The leftover harvest is still perfectly nutritious and healthy.”

Village Harvest needs volunteers. There are more five times as many homeowners trying to donate produce as it has people to pick it, Diserens said. He emphasized that homeowners can pick their own fruit and drop it off at dozens of charities around the Bay Area, listed at www.villageharvest.org, and are eligible for income-tax deductions.
Harvest.

An unknown trend a decade ago, today there are more than 100 urban harvest groups nationwide.

San Francisco has an “urban gleaning program” run through its city public works department. In the East Bay, the Urban Farmers, based in Lafayette, and Alameda Backyard Growers in Alameda harvest backyard fruit donations for food banks. Similar groups have sprung up in Fresno, Long Beach, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Orange County.

Diserens, who founded Village Harvest with his wife, Joni, is a former project manager at Hewlett-Packard and other high-tech companies. Through the use of databases, Web maps and other computer tools, he has organized 1,200 volunteers into an efficient fruit-picking army that completes 15 to 20 harvests a month from Gilroy to Daly City, turning the San Jose-based group into a national leader in the fledgling movement.

Village Harvest’s volunteers come from churches, community groups, private companies, schools and other organizations. All year round, they pick oranges, apples, lemons, grapefruits, plums, apricots, persimmons and other fruit, and donate it to about 15 nonprofits that provide meals to low-income Bay Area residents.

“When school is out, children don’t have access to free and reduced-priced lunches and breakfasts,” said Jonathan Doherty, a spokesman for Second Harvest Food Bank. “Kids go hungry when school is out. Village Harvest gives us a lot of oranges, and oranges are a great source of vitamin C.”

Second Harvest distributes the fruit and other food to 300 groups, including the Palo Alto Family YMCA, Half Moon Bay Meals on Wheels, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in San Jose, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Clara County in Milpitas.

“There’s something about the bounty of sharing with others,” Doherty said. “The leftover harvest is still perfectly nutritious and healthy.”

Village Harvest needs volunteers. There are more five times as many homeowners trying to donate produce as it has people to pick it, Diserens said. He emphasized that homeowners can pick their own fruit and drop it off at dozens of charities around the Bay Area, listed at www.villageharvest.org, and are eligible for income-tax deductions.
Harvest.

An unknown trend a decade ago, today there are more than 100 urban harvest groups nationwide.

San Francisco has an “urban gleaning program” run through its city public works department. In the East Bay, the Urban Farmers, based in Lafayette, and Alameda Backyard Growers in Alameda harvest backyard fruit donations for food banks. Similar groups have sprung up in Fresno, Long Beach, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Orange County.

Diserens, who founded Village Harvest with his wife, Joni, is a former project manager at Hewlett-Packard and other high-tech companies. Through the use of databases, Web maps and other computer tools, he has organized 1,200 volunteers into an efficient fruit-picking army that completes 15 to 20 harvests a month from Gilroy to Daly City, turning the San Jose-based group into a national leader in the fledgling movement.

Village Harvest’s volunteers come from churches, community groups, private companies, schools and other organizations. All year round, they pick oranges, apples, lemons, grapefruits, plums, apricots, persimmons and other fruit, and donate it to about 15 nonprofits that provide meals to low-income Bay Area residents.

“When school is out, children don’t have access to free and reduced-priced lunches and breakfasts,” said Jonathan Doherty, a spokesman for Second Harvest Food Bank. “Kids go hungry when school is out. Village Harvest gives us a lot of oranges, and oranges are a great source of vitamin C.”

Second Harvest distributes the fruit and other food to 300 groups, including the Palo Alto Family YMCA, Half Moon Bay Meals on Wheels, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in San Jose, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Clara County in Milpitas.

“There’s something about the bounty of sharing with others,” Doherty said. “The leftover harvest is still perfectly nutritious and healthy.”

Village Harvest needs volunteers. There are more five times as many homeowners trying to donate produce as it has people to pick it, Diserens said. He emphasized that homeowners can pick their own fruit and drop it off at dozens of charities around the Bay Area, listed at www.villageharvest.org, and are eligible for income-tax deductions.


Growers group to celebrate 3rd anniversary

The Alamedan – by Laura Casey

A happenstance meeting at a networking event in San Francisco three years ago led two Alameda residents to create a city-wide educational and service program to help feed needy residents who rely on the Alameda Food Bank for fresh fruit and vegetables.

Amanda Bruemmer

After finding out that they both lived in the Island city and had a passion for community-building, Amanda Bruemmer and Janice Edwards decided they had to do something together to create a new sort of community in Alameda. So they decided to form the Alameda Backyard Growers, now an education and service nonprofit organization which is celebrating its three-year anniversary from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Alameda’s Main Library.

Every month for three years, Alameda Backyard Growers, or ABG, has met somewhere in Alameda to share gardening and growing tips. At each meeting, attendees are encouraged to bring the extra food they grow so it can be donated to the Alameda Food Bank. Within the last three years, ABG has also developed Project Pick, which uses volunteers to glean fruit off otherwise unpicked trees in the city to donate it to the food bank. Project Pick presented the bank with nearly 2,500 pounds of fruit last year, more than doubling what they gave the food bank in 2011.

“It’s enormously gratifying to know that we are helping people,” Edwards said. “We may not be able to meet those people who need food at the food bank but there’s a sense of contributing to the quality of life for people on the Island.”

Janice Edwards

Bruemmer and Edwards picked gardening and urban farming as their mission because it’s a hot topic in the Bay Area, Edwards said.

“People are more concerned about where their food comes from, they are thinking about eating healthier, eating more fruits and vegetables,” she said.

Bruemmer and Edwards held their first ABG meeting in March 2010, three months after they met. They advertised it by posting flyers around the city and by talking with residents and neighbors. About 30 people showed up to that gathering and today a typical meeting now attracts about that many followers.

“I am so excited to see how our community is getting together,” Bruemmer said. “The whole reason I started this is because I wanted to get to know my neighbors, because I thought that if you have a community of people that know one another you can have a stronger community. That’s a big part of it. Living in this city is great.”

The meetings focus on three themes each year and are usually convened at Rhythmix Cultural Works. Four weeks out of the year, a local Master Gardener will host a demo on growing in the Bay Area microclimate or talk specifically about gardening with insects. Four weeks will be focused on a hot gardening topic like backyard chickens or worm composting. And four weeks are garden check-ins where people can ask experts about certain problems with, say, a tomato fungus or bad luck raising lettuce.

Project Pick, the effort that removes fruit from trees on Alameda residents’ property and donates it to the food bank, started when Bruemmer and Edwards noticed local trees groaning under the weight of unpicked fruit.

“I am originally from Scotland where you do not see citrus trees,” Bruemmer said. “We have a lemon tree in our garden and that is just a fascination for me. When we were going around and saw all these trees with too much fruit and fruit on the ground we thought, ‘Hmm. We could give these to the food bank.’”

Alameda Food Bank executive director Hank Leeper said he’s not only happy to get the fruit from Project Pick but also the vegetables that Alameda gardeners grow and give to the bank.

“Basically they’ve provided us with a lot of tremendous produce and one of the things that is a big benefit to us is, they provide us with produce of a fantastic quality that I don’t usually get a lot of,” he said. The bank may receive fresh potatoes and strawberries, he said, but it’s rare to get chard or string beans.

“One of the things we don’t get a lot of is really good quality tomatoes in the summer,” Leeper added. “People involved with the Growers bring them by.”

Since their first meeting, ABG has become has become a nonprofit organization and is waiting for its tax-exempt status to be approved. In the future, ABG will be looking to increase public outreach and further help people become more self-sufficient and grow their own food.

Along with socializing, Sunday’s three-year celebration will include an introduction to the Growers’ board of directors and an invitation for attendees to join ABG committees tackling community education and outreach, gleaning and growing and fundraising and finance. There will also be a screening of the environmental documentary, “The Economics of Happiness,” which promotes economic localization.

The event is also a fundraiser, and ABG hopes to raise $5,000 to cover its annual operating costs. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

Bruemmer and Edwards said that despite work and family commitments, they are still having fun with the project.

“It’s great to see the energy, commitment and passion people have within our community,” Bruemmer said. “It’s really gratifying.”

Alameda Backyard Growers’ meetings are free and open to the public. Most are held on the second Tuesday of every month at Rhythmix Cultural Center, 2513 Blanding Avenue. Changes of venue and additional information can be found on their website, http://alamedabackyardgrowers.wordpress.com.

Alameda residents can call (510) 239-PICK (7425) to request a volunteer come over their house and pick their fruit for donation. Volunteers are happy to glean some fruit for the tree’s owners but ask that at least 50 percent of the harvest go to the food bank.

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Alameda Backyard Growers building community ‘one veggie at a time’

Inside Bay Area – by Janet Levaux Correspondent

Here’s a link to the original article.

ALAMEDA — Alameda Backyard Growers has a lot to celebrate Sunday, when it commemorates its three-year anniversary at the Alameda Main Library with a special three-hour event.

The group draws 50 or more guests to its events and has an email list of more than 400 individuals.

It gave more than 2,050 pounds of locally grown fruit to the Alameda Food Bank in 2012, up from 845 pounds in 2011.

In addition, the gardening collective won first place in its category at Alameda’s Fourth of July Parade last year. It also has formed a board and is on its way to becoming a nonprofit corporation.

“It’s been about people connecting with people, one veggie at a time,” said Amanda Bruemmer, who co-founded the group in early 2010 with fellow Alamedan Janice Edwards. “Janice and I thought, ‘There’s a lot of land around, food being grown and people in need of it.’ That’s what made this blossom.”

The two women say that thanks to a core group of about 30 members, Alameda Backyard Growers has been able to spread the word -and the produce. The group’s growing popularity prompted it to move its gatherings from High Street Station to Rhythmix Cultural Works about a year or so ago.

Edwards, an East Coast native who moved to the Island nearly 10 years ago, began gardening several years back with friends and neighbors.

“I brought them to our first meeting,” she said.

For her part, Bruemmer — who was raised in Scotland — got interested in gardening when she and her husband re-did their back yard.

“We worked with Ploughshares Nursery … and found out what we needed to do to have a Bay-friendly garden at home,” she said.

Thanks to the efforts of the co-founders and other members, Alameda Backyard Growers now has more than 20 local partners, including Ploughshares, Alameda County Master Gardeners, Project LEAF (Local Edible Alameda Farm), Alameda Backyard Chickens, Alameda Backyard Beekeepers and Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda (CASA).

Over the past three years, strong relationships have developed between the group’s members.

“It’s been great to watch the friendships grow” as people share gardening plots, Edwards said. “And there have been couples who have met through the group, too.”

In addition to sharing land and donating produce, many members also have given their professional skills to Alameda Backyard Growers. Edwards, for instance, is a grants-program administrator, while Bruemmer is a sales trainer.

“We both were able to bring skills to this, so we could train, support and organize community building,” Bruemmer said.

At Sunday’s event, Alameda Backyard Gardeners will be showing a film, “The Economics of Happiness,” sharing gardening information and other materials, and offering refreshments.

“We would be thrilled for everyone to attend. Our philosophy is about access for all,” Edwards said.


Another Kind of Fruit Loop

Alameda Patch

Alameda Backyard Growers take quickie census of island fruit trees with surprising results

Twenty five people converged on March 10 with one mission in mind – to find Alameda’s hidden treasure trove of fruit trees.

Now, Alameda Backyard Growers, which sponsored the , is reporting their findings. Their results may amaze you.

The volunteers divided up into nine teams and scoured distinct areas of the Island. During a 90-minute trek around Alameda on foot, bikes and cars the searchers located 356 fruit trees.

Virtually all found and identified were citrus trees – orange, lemon and grapefruit – and organizers hope to now make contact with the tree owners and see if they will consider sharing their harvest with Alamedans in need.

Volunteers from Alameda Backyard Growers and other garden produce from local homeowners and donating it to the . So far they have donated hundreds of pounds of produce, mostly fruit, and are hoping to boost that amount in the coming year.

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