Urban Self-Sufficiency, One Crop At a Time



Here's one way to go about making a city more self-sufficient, food-wise:  Start with just one crop. Once you get that one right, move on to the next one.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Friends of the Urban Forest is doing just that:  They are mapping every Meyer lemon tree in the city, with a view to planting enough to meet the city's entire Meyer lemon needs.  They estimate that a few thousand lemon trees are already in place; 12,000 is the goal.

I just hope they've checked with the bartenders and the bakers. 12,000 trees might be enough to supply the city with  Meyer lemon and proseco cocktails, but what are the rest of y'all gonna have?



  1. Here in Bend, Oregon, we have enough fresh (and dried, this time of year) sagebrush for not only our town of 90,000 but (and I’m only guessing here) probably for not just the rest of the USA but also possibly for the entire known universe.

  2. I’m so jealous. I visited the area last May and was gutted at how effortlessly chamomile and hollyhocks just GREW anywhere, like common dandelions. Unbelievable. I have to offer a few human sacrifices to Chaac Mul on top of weekly seaweed treatments and bi-daily waterings just to keep a rose bush alive a full summer.

  3. If only I could get my city to encourage home fruit trees of any sort. Here we are in the heart of California Ag country, and you’d not know it except for the streets name for extinct orchards & ranches.

  4. So i read the SFgate article and looked at the FUF website, and i can’t figure out a) how they came up with a number for their goal, and b) how they are finding these trees (going door to door? Phone poll?) Still, the project is intriguing, and i wonder what they will do with the idata.

  5. Just wait until a disease or new pest comes through and wipes out the entire lot of ’em.

    Why hasn’t anyone learned from Dutch Elm disease and the Emerald Ash Borer? We need diversity, not mono-cultures.

  6. This is far better than what a town near here recently did: RASBERRIES! And blackberries.

    Which no one wants in a downtown area. And which will be coming up through the sidewalks and taking over the streets for generations to come.

  7. They could do aerial population counts, like a lot of ecologists do. For my locale (metro-east St Louis)I would say- grow kale! It grows nearly year-round here and when it isn’t good (middle of summer) there is plenty of Lamb’s Quarter to substitute. Great idea. Thanks for the post.

  8. I have always wanted a lemon tree but I am too scared to plant any trees in my yard. I hear that they have dwarf kinds that you could grow in a pot maybe?

  9. I love it! One of my apartments in SF had a Meyer Lemon tree, and I felt a huge responsibility to use all of the lemons…. a girl can only eat so much lemon curd, preserved lemons, and lemon sorbet. That tree was a powerhouse, and produced more lemons than I could use or give away. I had such guilt! I would have loved to contribute those babies to the city’s restaurants!

  10. I’m across the bay in Berkeley. My Dad planted a Meyer Lemon tree almost 50 years ago, and a second one about 20 years ago. We bought the house 4 years ago. However, several years ago we started trading excess lemons with June Taylor (junetaylorjams.com) who we met at the Berkeley Famer’s Market, and occasionally with Phoenix Pastificio before they moved off Shattuck. Now June is only in the SF market, but we still trade as her Still Room is in Berkeley and she says our lemons are very high quality (my family always gardened organically). We get lemons year-round and trade in 10-20 pound batches usually. No waste here!

  11. Great post. I agree that you would be better off going for at least a couple different crops so you don’t promote monoculture. In our town they now prohibit planting fruit trees along streets because they think that they are harder for the city to cleanup (leaves & snow and fruit). All this would be avoided by pruning and a system for collecting fruit when owners don’t want the fruit. We are hoping to start some community groups to help do this. Local sustainability is such a great idea!

  12. I live in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco and I have a beautiful and bountiful old meyer lemon tree in my backyard. It was actually one of the big reasons why I wanted to buy this house! I have great memories of the meyer lemon trees my parents had in their backyard in Los Angeles when I was a kid. They make the best lemonade! ….and now that I am older, I’ve discovered that they make the absolute best limoncello I have ever tasted.

    Is Friends of the Urban Forest planting them as street trees? I’m on their list to have a tree planted in front of my house in one of the upcoming plantings. I would love to have a meyer lemon out front for people to partake of, but I’m not sure how feasible it would be to grow one on my street.

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