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LN – “Serve yourself”: the Argentine city that was filled with fruit trees

They populated the paths of edible fruits with the idea of ​​encouraging self-cultivation and the consumption of fresh, agroecological and friendly food with the planet Credit: Mauro V. Rizzi

It's Saturday and, with the help of volunteers, it's time to sink your fingers into the ground, pluck weeds, prop up the shoots, harvest some fruit and also, why not, cut neatly some fresh ciboulette to fill the sauce with aroma Noodle noodles, ideal and necessary to recover energy and continue working in the afternoon in the garden of the Municipal Hospital Emilio Ferreyra de Necochea, in the province of Buenos Aires.

The kitchen staff of the health center only have to walk a few meters to provide themselves in the garden with leafy vegetables, vegetables, fruit and even spices that will nourish the diet of inpatients. It is a 100% natural production and with the added value of the solidarity contribution of those who gave shape to
Necochea Ciudad Frutal, an undertaking committed to agroecology and, moreover, decided to beautify the streets of this city with trees that produce edible fruits.

Juan García and Eugenia Podlesny began in this adventure that began almost a decade ago with a lemon tree that they pretended to have in the back of their house and for which there was not enough place. That's why they thought about placing it in the front of the house, they consulted regulations in the municipality and they were enthusiastic about an idea that could be replicated by the different neighborhoods.

Juan and Eugenia working in the community garden of Necochea Hospital
Juan and Eugenia working in the community garden of Necochea Hospital Credit: Mauro V. Rizzi

Then, when they took the first steps, the expectation increased even more because studies realized that this spa town had a deficit of 10,000 trees in its urban area.

Always from self-management, the Necochea Ciudad Frutal group moved forward with its proposal. One put a cherry tree, another a plum tree, and thus the paths were nourished by species. So far, 500 fruit trees have been planted in public spaces.

“The idea is to eat fresh fruit on the street, as has been done in other parts of the world,” says Podlesny, and especially cites the “Incredible Edible” experience in Todmorden, England, where more than 80 public spaces that town is reserved for orchards and fruit plantations of free consumption for the neighbors. In addition, Podlesny and García highlight that the project collectivizes the individual need to access and eat fresh and healthy food, free of agrochemicals.

So far they have planted 500 trees in this coastal city
So far they have planted 500 trees in this coastal city Credit: Mauro V. Rizzi

The first community garden was born eight years ago in the Rivadavia Club, where a padel court had once operated. There, in very few square meters, the group deployed a mini-greenhouse. Students from schools in the area were visiting to learn, or received in the classrooms these entrepreneurs of agroecology.

The agreement ended with a change of club authorities. The new space that appeared was on the premises of the municipal hospital. Almost a hectare full of stones, where sparks would come when trying to bury a shovel. But as in this story there are no impossible, they worked and made the place a rich and generous plot of land.

Figs, lemons, plums and kinotos appear according to the season. The orchard perfumes with green onion, chives, tomatoes, rosemary and dozens of other species. The plum, for example, produces between 100 and 120 kilos of fruit per year. The objective, with about 70 new shoots that grow firm and strong, is that the place becomes a fruit forest. Already 13 volunteers collaborated, and most of those who participate today are under 19 years old.

Most volunteers are under 19 years old
Most volunteers are under 19 years old Credit: Mauro V. Rizzi

Share and multiply, that's what it's about. That is why Podlesny and García also created a meeting point for seed exchange. They settle in front of the Municipal Library, where they exchange their seeds with those of other neighbors. About 300 people participate with the only commitment that this plant germinates in another point of the city.

In addition to the material, it was sought to add knowledge. That's why they set up what they call a “seed library”, where a written record with recommendations is left so that the species they share roots and grows well.

From Necochea Ciudad Frutal recognize that the challenge is not easy or cheap. Labor is covered, but other costs have to be met. Therefore, with what they harvest from the fruit trees, they usually produce jams that they then sell at fairs.

The seed of the project ignited and not only in the Necochenses sidewalks. The concept also won space inside the houses with a contest of home gardens. A jury goes through the courtyards to evaluate and determine who gets a modest prize money and, much more valued, a plant to plant.

So that the city, little by little, advance in that culture of “serve yourself”. So that it also stops transcending borders due to its intense winds and is much more known for its streets full of fruit trees and the care of the environment.

Credit: Mauro V. Rizzi

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  • This article is published as part of
    Earth Beats, an international and collaborative initiative that brings together 18 media outlets around the world to focus on solutions to waste and pollution.


Publicado en el diario La Nación