Civic Fruit

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"Lisa Gross is an artist and urban food activist who heads up a budding coalition called the Boston Tree Party. The group organizes the planting of pairs of heirloom apple trees around the city of Boston in the hopes of ultimately forming a patchwork of free fruit and community engagement.

Inspired by what she calls the City of Apples, Gross has worked with delegations of tree stewards all around the city to transform Boston's public spaces, as well as the social and environmental health of its residents. An artist with an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts, Gross runs an umbrella nonprofit called Hybrid Vigor Projects. She's also the founder and head of Boston's Urban Homesteaders' League.

The Boston Tree Party launched April 10, 2011, with the planting of its first pair of apple trees. Gross spoke to us recently amidst her work to begin ramping up for the next planting season.

Q. What does the Boston Tree Party do?

A. Our motto is civic fruit, and we call for the planting of fruit trees in civic space. So we really see these trees -- which are planted by communities on land that they are somehow connected to or control -- as a focal point for community engagement.

The thing is, we're not trying to get permission to just plant trees anywhere. We're starting with communities who want to plan and care for these trees. We want to know who is going to take care of them, and how it's going to be structured. We built a framework and work with [community] delegations to give them a planting kit and help them learn how to care for the trees.

The trees are only a year old, so they don't have fruit yet. Once they start producing, we will be organizing workshops and events on how to use the apples, because there are so many fun, exciting things that you can do with them!" (