Do-gooder fruit foragers find a farm


The free-wheelin’ fruit-tree foragers of Concrete Jungle are settling down—sort of.

They still plan to spend their summers biking from tree to tree, gathering unclaimed bounty to donate to folks in need of some fresh fruit. But now they’ll also intentionally grow produce, on land set aside just for them … that is, once they get it cleared and planted.

“It’s actually a friend of mine that owns it,” explains Craig Durkin, who with Aubrey Daniels launched Concrete Jungle in 2009. “He’s been using it as a farm, but he just got a really sweet job in San Francisco.”

Now the owner is letting Concrete Jungle give farming a try. The empty lot in Sylvan Hills, just a few minutes from downtown Atlanta, could be used to grow produce during low-fruit months, raise honey bees, and serve as an example of how small properties tucked into the urban landscape can contribute to the overall local food supply.

“We have a really cool opportunity to demonstrate some good farming practices but also to create a farm that has the intention to serve a greater good,” says Robby Astrove, a longtime volunteer whose day job happens to be park ranger at Arabia Mountain. “The spring season is coming up quick, and we want to at least get some things in the ground.”

To that end, this weekend Concrete Jungle—which in 2011 donated more than 3,200 pounds of “neglected” fruit—is hosting a work party to clean up the property and connect with likeminded do-gooders. Volunteers are welcome. So are work gloves, garden and clearing tools, and ideas on how to integrate the garden with the organization’s mission of distributing unused food to the hungry.

“We’re really excited to have this land, but we want to makes sure it absolutely doesn’t distract from what we do,” says Durkin, a material scientist for a nanotechnology company. “We really just want to get more and more stuff, and hopefully this farm will let us donate in months that we haven’t been able to previously.”

In addition to the land’s potential for sustainable agriculture, Astrove sees the property as an opportunity to explore sustainable management—something Concrete Jungle hasn’t had much need for before now.

“It’s very grass-roots. I think that’s a lot of the appeal … we show up to a tree and shake it,” Astrove says. “I think this farm is a really good exercise for us to have some good long-term planning.”

> Wanna help? Here’s how:
    •    Volunteer this Saturday, 12-3 p.m., at the empty lot next door to 1117 Birch St., Atlanta. Bring work gloves.
    •    Donate garden supplies and tools (see the group’s wish list)
    •    Help the organization identify more neglected/available fruit trees.