Articles written by Darryl McCullough (unless otherwise noted)

Sunday, October 23, 2016


I expect to make several posts about the East Bradenton Park Fruit Tree Grove project in upcoming months. A good way to start might be with the current draft of our FAQ. Amber Mills, Public Health Specialist of the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County, provided many helpful edits to my first draft. Amber has spearheaded the East Bradenton Park revitalization project, and it has been a pleasure to work with her and all of those involved in it.

Who planted the grove?

The grove is a joint project involving the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County, the Manatee County Government, the Manatee Rare Fruit Council, the Tropical Fruit Society of Sarasota and the UF/IFAS Extensions of Manatee and Sarasota County.

Why a fruit tree grove?

In Manatee County, survey results to assess interventions for healthy food access and consumption evaluated access to fruit trees, gardening and educational opportunities, farm stands, and lower costs. According to assessment findings, the East Bradenton community perceived fresh fruits and vegetables to be expensive, and found the time it takes to obtain and prepare them to be a barrier to consuming healthy food. The fruit tree orchard in the East Bradenton Park will provide inexpensive access to fruits as well as increase the availability of locally grown food for its community members.

How can it help the community?

There are several benefits. The East Bradenton Park neighborhood is a designated food desert, with insufficient fresh produce available. When the trees start to produce fruit, it will be freely available to area residents for their personal consumption (not for resale). When the 21 trees reach full production size, this will be a considerable amount of food. More importantly, the grove will provide both knowledge and inspiration for area residents to grow more of their own fruit in backyards and other available areas. If not just 21, but several hundred productive fruit trees can be established in the neighborhood, a tremendous amount of fruit can be produced for consumption, trade, or income. Finally, we hope that this beautiful grove will be a model for other such projects, and that the residents of the community will take pride in being the leader in this initiative.

When will there be fruit to eat?

A fruit tree planted as a seed will usually take 5 to 10 years before it begins to produce, and the resulting fruit might not be high quality. However, the trees in the East Bradenton Park grove are grafted trees, which will yield high-quality fruit as soon as they are large enough. How soon will depend on the kind of tree. Some, like the starfruit, bananas, and papaya, might produce within a year. Most will take two or three years, and a few, like the avocados, may take four years. Don't be shocked to see some of the experts who are initially maintaining the grove remove the fruit from some of the trees before it is ripe. In those cases, the tree is too small to produce good fruit, and needs another year or two of growth before fruiting. Without the burden of producing fruit, the young tree will grow much faster, and will produce far more in the long run.

How were these trees selected?

Experts from the UF/IFAS Extension Office and members of area fruit tree clubs worked together to make the selection, based on several considerations. All of these trees will grow very well in our area, and can be very productive without spraying pesticides or using expensive fertilizers. They produce fruit in different seasons, so eventually there should be at least some fruit almost any day of the year. Finally, the trees provide options for many situations: some do well in wetter soils, others in drier, some will get large and others will stay fairly small, and so on. Most any space with some sunlight and soil can be a home for at least one of these types of trees.

Who will take care of the trees?

Fruit trees like these, that are well adapted to our area, do not require much care. Initially, volunteers from the local fruit tree clubs will tend to the grove. As time goes on, local residents can take “ownership” of this responsibility. Those who are interested but do not have experience can learn through many sources: either directly from the volunteers (feel free to ask them questions, or just say hi), through self-study, by joining local fruit tree clubs that have monthly meetings to share knowledge and information, and finally through local volunteers who provide one-day classes in all the basics.

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