operational meeting with discussions about the unidee in progress publication
resident Asiya Wadud in dialogue about her current Forage Oakland project:
How can we begin to re-imagine what it means to be human, and how can Forage Oakland play a role in this new design?
In establishing Forage Oakland, I envisioned a project that could serve as an equalizer, and one’s involvement would not be tied to how much money one could afford or could not afford to spend on neighborhood fruit (Forage Oakland is a neighborhood fruit barter network whereby residents of Oakland, California barter their excess fruit with their neighbors.). I imagined a system where the fruit itself could be the currency and conventional currency would actually have no value. I see this excess neighborhood fruit as a resource that should be shared and redistributed in the neighborhood. If I understand the fruit to be a shared resource from which we can all benefit, then there is no need to bring money into the equation. Rather, why not experiment with a new currency, a currency that can then be extended to other aspects of our lives?
Imagine, too, a monthly swap meet, where the neighborhood gathers and exchanges excess household goods– kitchen supplies, car seats children have outgrown, clothing that are no longer worn. Rather than having a traditional yard sale where each household makes money from the sale, a system could exist where used goods are simply exchanged for other goods from the neighborhood. It may sound a bit idealistic, a system from a bygone era. But I think that there is something we could learn from this system’s probable success. It could be a catalyst for exploring new paradigms of neighborhood cohesion.
Often, in the morning walks that I take around my neighborhood, I’ll leave a note for the residents of a house that has a productive fruit tree. In the note, I explain a bit about the project, that it’s a barter network. That in my asking for the bounty from their backyard, they are rewarded with a gift, an exchange of fruit. Often, a situation unfolds where the residents generously allow me to come to their home while they are working their 9:00 – 5:00 job, with total trust, I am able to come to their backyards and harvest fruit. Not only is it the generosity that continually impresses me, but it is also the trust in strangers, which is not common in a large city where many residents do not know their next door neighbors. I find something very arresting about this trust and, ultimately, this generosity.
Historically, the fruit tree is a symbol of great generosity and bounty, so in one way, it is perfect that North Oakland residents who take part in this project by and large subscribe to a different sense of community and urban generosity than other city dwellers. Not only does the generosity extend to the tangible gifts of fruit, but it also extends to less tangible gifts, such as labor. As the project expands, there have been countless offers to help with delivering fruit, harvesting fruit, and helping in all manners possible. I find this inspiring for the city. For me, this signifies a great sense of pride in our neighborhood and the desire to play an active role in the process of making it a more cohesive community. And maybe, in the end, that is why there has been this out pouring of generosity. In redefining the city in these terms, I have come to think of my North Oakland neighborhood as home, not just as a neighborhood where I find myself living for the moment. I can defend Oakland wholeheartedly and with great assurance, attesting to its warm spirit– despite what news reports may say.
Above are images not of Oakland fruit, but of a fruit trees I’ve spotted in Biella. The first photo is of a quince tree and the following photo is of elderberries. Both of these trees can be found on the walk between Fondazione and the train station.