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Neighborhood Fruit: Creating a "Community of Trust"

Neighborhhod Fruit Logo

The best green companies take a holistic approach to providing a community with its needs – an approach that address not only the environmental aspects in its business practices, but also actively involves the people in the community it serves. Throw in a financially sustainable model to keep the practices going, and you have business which includes people, planet, and profit in its bottom line.

One business which takes this “integrated bottom line” approach just came on the scene in May. Neighborhood Fruit emerged out of a final class project dreamed up (literally) by Kaytea Petro, then an MBA student at Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. After graduation, Petro and fellow classmate Oriana Sarac teamed up to build a site designed to “make use of the abundant fruit growing in our urban neighborhoods.” The site serves several functions: utilizing an abundance and diversity of local fruits, vegetables, and herbs (contrary to their name, they’re not fruit-centric); creating community connectivity; and reducing the amount of excessive water, fuel, and other resources which would otherwise have been required for the production and transportation of the same amount produce grown commercially in orchards and fields far away from our homes.

Need fruit? Got fruit? Neighborhood Fruit matches the two using its registry service and web 2.0 mapping tool. Their press release describes a site which “uses GPS technology and crowdsourced information to locate fruit within users' zipcodes, and social networking conventions to facilitate the exchange process.  A reputation platform to assist users deciding who to share with and a mobile application are scheduled to be released in the near future.”

Those with fruit on their property can register their trees for free. Those who want fruit can either a) search for fruit on public land for free, or b) pay a small “Finders Fee” to participate in Neighborhood Fruit’s “Fruitfillment” service, which will allow gleaners to see where and when fruit on private land is available for pick-up (FYI: during the site’s beta phase, users can register for the Fruitfillment service at no charge). Fruit tree owners can choose to leave the fruit in set quantities, or have Fruitfillment subscribers pick it for them when they come by – a helpful service for the elderly and disabled.

We’re not in the fruit delivery business,” explains Petro. “We’re in the information delivery business. What eBay did for the garage sale, we’re doing for backyard fruit exchanges.”

The site is a reflection of the increase in “urban foraging”, or “gleaning” – a practice which makes use of the abundance of produce in your own backyard by sharing what you can’t use with your neighbor. Gleaners range from the “casual snacker” passing by your fruit tree to an artisan pie-maker. Whether it’s the result of the economic downturn or an increase in “locavores” looking for fresh, local produce, the trend has resulted in a skyrocketing registration rate at Neighborhood Fruit. Since its launch this past month, the site registered over 110 users and 48 trees – including public trees in the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, PA, and Honolulu. Registered private trees are clustered all over the U.S. as well.

The site provides a host of services. Their “Communities” page lists recipes and food preparation techniques, gardening tips, and DIY projects. Their partnerships with foraging sites like ForageSF and ForageOakland, and urban forestry sites such as the San Francisco Urban Forestry Mapping Project will allow Neighborhood Fruit to act as a data-management service for these gleaning organizations., another partner, can provide local foragers with an “online artisan food marketplace” -- a venue where makers of pies, jams, and other goods can sell their wares.

While the concept of Neighborhood Fruit could be labeled as “sustainable”, Sarac and Petro choose to use fun colors and images – including fruit labels that change monthly – instead of traditional green marketing. “It’s so inherently green its not even part of our marketing strategy” says Sarac.

So what’s next for Neighborhood Fruit? Petro and Sarac seek to further develop the social networking component for fruit-related activities, and will continue to grow fruit demand and availability nationwide. Ultimately Petro envisions a service where “not only will all fruit be utiltized, but [we] will increase the quantity of that fruit”. Their plans include large-scale gleaning and reaching out to charity organizations. A Neighborhood Fruit mobile app is in the works, though the platform remains to be determined.

“Currently there are several people operating in this space,” says Petro. “But none of them are operating in the sense that they are using web 2.0 technology to create a community of trust. That’s what we want to do – to create trust.”


That is great!   I would love

That is great!   I would love to participate in something like this.  Especially because we always grow way more tomatoes than we can possibly eat.  I'd love to exchange some of our tomatoes for some other fruit and veggies.

I want fruit!

Wow - shows the power of Web 2.0 technology and ingenuity.  Shows how we can use the web to optimize our resources and minizmize waste.  Great post!

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