| Jan 2, 2024
48,900 trees planted in 2023!
As we conclude another bountiful year at the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, I am eager to share not only our accomplishments but also some personal anecdotes that fuel my passion for this vital work.
My journey with FTPF began nearly a decade ago. I found myself at a celebration for the opening of our Hawai’i Island nursery, where our Director Cem painted a vision of flourishing communities filled with locally-grown fruit and abundant orchards, free for all to pick and enjoy. This vision resonated deeply with me, and within a week, I was on a plane to volunteer on projects with the Hopi tribe and New Mexico pueblos. After a transformative year of volunteering, I joined the team in 2015.
Since then, I have helped coordinate the planting of tens of thousands of trees in diverse settings – schools, parks, public housing, community gardens, hospitals, community centers, animal sanctuaries, and food forests. I've had the honor to work with communities in Brazil, Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala, Uganda, and, most recently, the launch of our newest project in Honduras – witnessing the power of fruit trees to provide nourishment in both rural and urban settings.
The beauty of this work lies in its simplicity – a return to the age-old practice of living alongside fruit trees. It's about coexisting with nature, cultivating mangoes, apples, cherries, jackfruit, or cacao in harmony with our needs and those of local ecosystems. It is a return to a more sustainable form of agriculture, one that honors the knowledge of small farmers and local growers who have been cultivating traditional foods for generations. It is also about reconnecting those of us in urban settings to nature and our food, creating community spaces where we can gather, grow, and connect with each other and our environment.
For me, this is more than a job; my experiences with FTPF have spurred a passion for creating a just and sustainable food system rooted in local knowledge and community participation. It has also inspired me to return to school to pursue academic research on the roles agroforestry and sustainably managed orchards play in creating such a system.
A few of my favorite moments this year have been the planting of our first trees in England, where I currently reside; the honor of launching our very first project in Honduras that aims to push back against destructive monocultures through the planting of native and food-bearing trees with small farmers; being on-site for our second-ever orchard planted at a prison in the United States, bringing meaningful outdoor time and skill-building opportunities to inmates in Ohio; and a return to the tribal lands of the Saginaw and Red Lake tribes, where we planted new orchards and witnessed the growth of ones we'd planted in previous years.
The gifts of this organization have been abundant for me personally, but more importantly, the offerings of the orchards we plant are enduring and tangible for the communities they serve. Below are highlights from this year, including some reflections from participants in our programs:
Launched our first-ever project in Honduras by planting 2,600 native and food-producing trees
Planted 30,000 trees in Uganda with small farmers and in community spaces: “We are very happy … it’s not only a tree, but fruits! We are under a tree, but with fruits. We've got a tree, and fruits! We are very pleased and we want to ensure you we will keep these trees, every tree we planted must grow up, I ensure you." -Teacher and youth mentor to students participating in orchard planting at Kybazinga Park, Jinja, Uganda
Planted 8,000 trees in Peru with six rural communities along the Amazon and Napo rivers
Planted 6,800 trees in El Salvador with farmers' cooperatives and at schools: “Every year we are planting trees … This is a blessing that today a delegation from another country is coming to help and to see that it is really important to be able to grow trees in this place.” -President of San Carlos II Cooperative in Osicala, El Salvador
Planted 175 trees in Guatemala at schools and low-income family homes: “We are grateful for the visit … and here we can already see the fruit of our work. The plants are growing well and I am very hopeful that one day we will be able to harvest and enjoy the fruits. Thank you with all my heart to all those who are supporting this project.” -Carlos Cifuentes, Sixth Grade Teacher, Casa Guatemala school in Rio Dulce, Guatemala
Planted 31 orchards across the United States: "What brought me out here today is a chance to give back. Tree planting is one of these things that is so fulfilling. We need trees and plants on our earth to survive." -Katina, volunteer at Randall's Island planting in New York City
Performed aftercare visits over the summer to provide guidance and collect data: "The magic is when you stand in the orchard, pick the fruit off the tree yourself, rub it on your shirt to clean it off, that's the connection. There's no fruit that tastes as good as these straight from the orchard." -Rita LeRoy, Farm Manager, Loma Vista Farm, Vallejo, California
As we celebrate the planting of 48,900 trees in 2023, we also envision the countless benefits ripening alongside the harvests – healthy nutrition, income generation, oxygen production, carbon sequestration, environmental cooling, water filtration, soil stabilization, and the creation of habitats for diverse wildlife, to name just a few.
In this spirit, I invite you to join us in reflecting on the profound impact we've collectively made this year and to look forward to the seeds of change we'll sow together in the coming year. Please consider supporting our work by making a donation to plant trees that will last a lifetime (or more)!
P.S. We are thrilled to report that for the 13th year in a row, more than 90 cents of every dollar contributed was used directly in our life-sustaining tree planting programs.