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Growing fruit trees as a community project  RSS feed

 
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  The basic question is whether communities, especially suburban communities, have pretty much all the capability to produce most of their fruit trees from local production A decentralized approach would allow for a certain amount of folks producing root-stock varieties and then having those community members with the various hybrid scions being willing, or in some way incentivized, to contribute their pruned scions to a collaborate effort to graft them on to the community produced root-stocks This is likely illegal if anyone were actually try to sell anything due to patent rights in most case, but if said community maintained this production under the pretense of a time bank or something similar might they be exempt for patent infringement?
 
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Whilst I like the idea of folks working together I wonder if in this specific case it is warranted ?  Would it not be easier to teach folks how to graft etc grow there own root stock ( quince I find easiest ) and leave them too it :-) . This sounds much easier to organise :-)
In fact I am hoping to arrange training at my home for locals to learn how to graft for this very reason

David
 
Matt Grantham
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I could be wrong but I would infer the efficiencies in the system would be driven by a quicker production of feed stocks if you had a small group of experts working on it, as opposed to just purchasing quince feedstock, if I understand that correctly. Pretty much the same with the grafting aspect, a group of trained grafters seems likely to outpace each individual grower doing it them for themselves especially in terms of each home grafter needing to be trained and having all the necessary materials for the job Maybe I am wrong in those assumptions, or maybe it the case that each individual doing for themselves avoids the friction of transaction Either way it seems superior to all the money spent at local nurseries

I should add that the question of scale is likely pivotal If we are talking full on medium to large scale farms then having the individual farmer being responsible for root stock and scion production would seem to make a lot more sense that it does for suburban backyard producers
 
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Matt Grantham wrote:This is likely illegal if anyone were actually try to sell anything due to patent rights in most case, but if said community maintained this production under the pretense of a time bank or something similar might they be exempt for patent infringement?



35 USC 271 (a) states:

Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent.


Making or using a patented invention (without selling) is still patent infringement.

That being said, the vast majority of fruit trees were never patented (or have had their patents expired). Also, the cost of patent litigation is extremely expensive, so any damages collected would likely dwarf the amount spent in pursuing a claim for patent infringement. So, the chances of a patent holder actually suing such an organization are relatively small...although a nasty letter from an attorney or two would not be unexpected.
 
Matt Grantham
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35 USC 271 (a) states:
Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent.


Making or using a patented invention (without selling) is still patent infringement.

I appreciate the comments, but your comment does not seem to follow from the quoted regulation Perhaps the point is roughly moot since we seem to agree that patent infringement is basically at the periphery of the issue
 
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I'm seeing two topics here.

1. an idea on how to encourage and expand local fruit trees and fruit production. 


2. the legalities of patented plants.  This part isn't interesting to me and I'm not sure it's relevant.  Very few fruit trees are patented and it's easy to make your own varieties from seed.  We also have delicious apple trees grown from seed by earlier generations (for on my farm alone) that could be used.

I'm also worried that this might lead to cider press discussion (if you don't know what the Cider Press is, please give the link a read.), so let's focus on the first topic.


the lifecycles project focuses on increasing the number of fruit trees and making certain no fruit goes wasted.  There is already a tremendous amount of fruit trees in our area that are not harvested.  I like that this group began their focus on that.  They offer grafting and pruning lessons some years. 

Grafting and budding is actually super-easy.  Probably the easiest thing I do on the farm.  Like crazy-easy.  There are even tools you can buy to make it even easier.  I can't express how easy I find this task and a success rate of over 95% (I get 100%, the others on the farm have the occasional failures).  I know people are frightened of this task, but I think if they actually tried it, or took advantage of some of the free training that is available (several other sources of training in our town for this skill), then I wouldn't see the need for a professional team.
 
David Livingston
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I agree RR lets demystify grafting and have everyone do it .Experts are not needed I believe :-)
even self proclaimed experts :-)

David
 
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I absolutely believe most communities, and even households, could become self sufficient in locally appropriate fruit production and some amount of vegetable production.  (And pork production and poultry production, and...). Think about all the "decorative" landscape trees that could've been replaced by a fruit or mast tree. It's not a matter of organizing community cooperatives or even teaching techniques.   It's about influencing choices. The vast majority of people would rather drive to the supermarket to buy an insipid but blemish free red delicious than put in the work to plant and grow an apple tree.  the best you can do is try through example and friendship to demystify and instill a love of nature and gardening to one friend, one neighbor, one co-worker, one niece, nephew, son daughter grandchild at a time... 
 
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There are economies of scale even at the community level.

It makes far more sense for me to order 100 ussurian pear 2yr seedlings than it does for individuals to order 5-10 each. 

At the next level I may become an expert on local pears, while you become expert in cherries, and Mike specializes in cane fruits.

It takes practice to graft.

If I do 5, two of them take.  If I do 25 fifteen of them take.  If I do 100, 70 of them take.

It takes time to set up and clean up. 

If it takes half an hour to find your knife, set up a work table, and where is the grafting tape! and 10 minutes at the end, that that 40 minutes is amortized over the 5 you are doing or the 100 I am doing.

***

Production rights.   In canada generall we have the COPF system.  It's largely an honor system, but if you get caught violating it, no one will talk to you.   In general royalties are small 10 cents to a buck.  It's not worth NOT paying it.  You have to pay $150 to join. then you send a list and a yearly cheque.  In principle they can come and inspect and count stock, but they usually don't unless there has been a complaint.

If you don't want to join COPF you can send a cheque directly to the owner.  I don't know what reception that would get.  If you are doing just one or a couple of plants from the same vendor it would be fine.  COPF allows you to do it with a single payment. 

***

I'm not a legal expert.  But I suspect that the same interpretation over 'fair use' would apply to plants as it does to written materials.    Few companies will chase you down because you grafted and sold 10 honeycrisp.  Do 10 thousand, and they want their share.
 
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I've given quite a bit of thought to this in the interest of encouraging communities to guide more of the resources already expended on landscape establishment and maintenance toward growing food.  Also though, from the perspective of breeding new varieties since I'm into that myself.  so, as someone said, it's two issues.

GROWING NEW TREES:  Most stuff is easy and most rootstock is easy to grow or propagate.  But someone has to do it and care about it. That's a job, like any job and can only be done on a large scale for free by someone with a side income that doesn't require that much work from them, unless it is a profitable endeavor for them.  If the effort was decentralized, then a bunch of people could do a little bit of the work.  I think a good way to do that is the model we already have, which is the scion exchanges.  The more the effort is expanded and localized, the more a few people will do a lot of thankless work for a majority of ungrateful freeloaders.  That at least is the average course of things.

PATENTS:  Most fruit varieties are out of patent.  It's either 20 or 25 years.  The Home Orchard Society keeps a list of apples that are in or out of patent somewhere which you might be able to find if you look hard.  If you grow a patented variety, then you obviously deem the effort someone went to to create that variety as worthwhile.  Breeding is a long game that and usually a labor of love.  Individual enthusiasts often put their heart and soul into it and larger programs dump tons of money and manpower into it.  Especially for fruit varieties it's a very long road to a new variety.  As someone that is both a home fruit grower/enthusiast and a breeder of apples, my view on the subject is between two worlds.  I think we need a vibrant culture of propagation and fruit growing.  Fruit enthusiasts have a lot of power to increase the popularity of new varieties by testing them outside the industrial fruit production paradigm.  I think what we need is a culutral attitude shift from what can we get away with, to how can we support breeders at any level who make stuff that is worthwhile.  I have a Patreon account where people just give me money every month to keep doing what I do.  i also get occasional tips and donations by mail or paypal.  I recently was given 250.00 by an individual toward my apple breeding program for instance.  What if we had that model for small scale breeders?  What if when you looked up a fruit variety online, you found a hub website for breeders highlighting their work and their varieties, documenting the morphology and cultural characterists and grower experience, as well as the story behind their creation.  What is lacking is the ability for citizen growers to easily find and support citizen breeders.  Establish a standard donation or standard sliding scale and a semblance of something like crowd funding.  That could even potentially do away with the expensive and divisive process of patenting for small breeders.  Payment of royalties on patented varieties could probably be made easier than it is.  They are not that much.  If the variety is worth growing, then it's worth paying the small patent fee.  The best new disease resistant stuff does not grow on trees.  They are the long efforts of multigenerational breeding.  I'm thinking there could be a hybrid between the two as well.  A patent process that allows limited license to home growers, say two or three trees or less, with a social expectation that if it works out for you that you drop in and show some love for the person that made that variety possible.  This could also create a main community hub to discuss these varieties and their cultural benefits and drawbacks, as well as a community for breeders.  Such an endeavor would have to be run under a non-profit status and have multiple paid positions to do it right and be sustainable, but that is what I think the future should look like.  It would create even more incentive for new and existing breeders, allow for free trading and propagation that we need to experiment and expand, create even more interest in new varieties and make the process more human for all of us.  It could also Darwinize/democratize plant variety selection.  I think we need something like this for all plant breeding, not just trees.  A way to communicate more among breeders and growers about specific varieties, a cultural paradigm that asks how can we support and encourage the creation of new improved varieties and an easy means to find what we want to support and give back to the effort, all while encouraging the spread and increased propagation of new varieties at any level from trading to nursery production.
 
Matt Grantham
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I want to be careful with my comments since I feel somewhat responsible for raising a topic that can be controversial. So I hope those who feel I might be pushing things to give me their feedback on going about things the wrong way. It seems like several us believe communities, or the actors within communities, could go a lot further in terms of their local fruit tree, or other food, production Yet there seems to be a difference of opinion on how we go about getting there I have no problem with the idea of using existing institutional and familial relations in order to bring about such change However I would suggest that there is likely a limit to how much change one can make in any given situation only using the type of relationships one has used in the building of the existing paradigm I see nothing naive or impractical in the idea that complete strangers, in a given community, in common purpose, introduced by a notwork of communication platforms, can arrive at significant change within said community
 
raven ranson
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S. G. Botsford wrote:

It takes practice to graft.

If I do 5, two of them take.  If I do 25 fifteen of them take.  If I do 100, 70 of them take.

It takes time to set up and clean up. 

If it takes half an hour to find your knife, set up a work table, and where is the grafting tape! and 10 minutes at the end, that that 40 minutes is amortized over the 5 you are doing or the 100 I am doing.



I think your method is different than mine. 

My knife is in my pocket.  The secateurs are on a shelf above my farm shoes.  So is the tape.  Basically, as I put my shoes on, I stick the tools in my pocket.  I've never really timed how long it takes to put my shoes on, but I think it's less than 40 minutes.  Not sure I understand why one needs a work table, but there's one just inside the garage if you like, another 30 seconds. 

That's under a minute to set up.  It takes me longer than that to find a matching pair of socks in the morning (life is so much easier if I don't bother with matching socks.)

I'm also concerned your strike rate is so low.  Is that what people usually get?  I've never taken the time to compare my results with others so I don't really know what people 'expect' to get when grafting.  If a graft or bud doesn't take, I'm surprised and sad. 


The economy of scale:  I've been involved on the outskirts of several large projects to improve food security in our city.  Several of them start so big that they alienate the individuals they are trying to reach.  Our transition movement was a bit like this.  They had a similar idea to the OP with nut trees.  Go big, plant hundreds, get specialists to help increase the nursery stock.  Very much of the same sort of idea.  It didn't go well.  But other projects that start small with a dozen or so people, and grew from there to be huge movements with hundreds of volunteers, these are still around and thriving.  They don't use specialists to achieve results, they train their volunteers to do the grafting and whatever else is needed.   They are providing more than just food.  They are fostering and encouraging vital skills in the community.  Skills we are at great risk of losing if we start believing that it can only be done by a professional.  I like this very much!


As for Patents/production rights or whatever, I would choose from the thousands of fruit varieties that don't have this issue. 

Chances are an unpatented fruit from local trees will be tastier and better suited to local conditions than one that is designed for mass market grocery store conditions and long transportation chains. 

If I was doing this, I would go to some of the first farms in our area and choose a couple of dozen trees with different kinds of apples (maybe 4 cider apples, 5 short storing, a dozen long storing, and the rest in cooking apples) and use those varieties.  Most of these trees are about 100 years old and are grown from seed so I would feel confident that 1) patents are not an issue, and 2) they are well suited to our local climate. 


 
David Livingston
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I have about ten types of pear fifteen apple do I really know the names of each of them ? Nope I have one apple tree I call the three euro tree why because it cost three euro in the sale as the label had fallen off . For three euro it filled a space in the hedge that needed filling . Most of the others where there when I got here no names attached. Others where given to me by Permies in other country's no names there either .
I feel the patent thing is a red herring buy a quince take hard wood cuttings buy an omega tool if you want , a sharp knife, cadge or find or borrow some scions and in ten years you could have fifty trees I think overall cost less than 30$ . Anyone who wants to try to make a living out of selling apple trees etc I think is in for a tough ride  . Let's demystify this one folks !

David
 
David Livingston
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Just to give an example this year I have tried to root graft pear on to hawthorn , it's an idea I found on the net . Hawthorn is a weed here so I have given it a try . Will it work? who knows. how much did it cost? pennies  how long did it take ? 30 mins including finding my tools and getting clean at a time of year when it's too wet and cold to do much else
If it works I will have three full size standard trees :-)
The idea is you graft the pear on to hawthorn then put it in a pot , when it takes put the plant in the ground with the graft below the soil so the tree can develop it's own roots

See we could all do this
We have everything to gain ( and apples ) and nothing to loose

David

David
 
raven ranson
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I want to say how much I like the idea of increasing fruit and food production in a community.

I also love the idea of getting two harvests out of one. 

The first harvest is the fruit. 
The second harvest is in increasing the skill-bank in the community. 

Perhaps the reason we have so little food production in the community is that we have so few people who know how to create, harvest, and use fresh food. 

Looking at similar projects that have been successful in our local community, I think that a big part of their success is that they give something back to their volunteers.  They give back new skills and with that, the empowerment to grow their own food.
 
raven ranson
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David Livingston wrote:Just to give an example this year I have tried to root graft pear on to hawthorn , it's an idea I found on the net . Hawthorn is a weed here so I have given it a try . Will it work? who knows. how much did it cost? pennies  how long did it take ? 30 mins including finding my tools and getting clean at a time of year when it's too wet and cold to do much else
If it works I will have three full size standard trees :-)
The idea is you graft the pear on to hawthorn then put it in a pot , when it takes put the plant in the ground with the graft below the soil so the tree can develop it's own roots

See we could all do this
We have everything to gain ( and apples ) and nothing to loose

David

David



My grandfather did pear onto hawthorn a few times.  The hawthorn grew slower than the pear, so it was a funny looking tree.  But great harvests and very drought tolerant. 

I like your idea of root grafting.  I'll have to try this one day.

I also like the idea of diversifying rootstock.  Talking with the local fruit nursery where they graft and sell several hundred varieties of fruit, the biggest problem they are having is that they only have access to two or three varieties of apple rootstock.  These are all clones.  The worry is that if a disease comes through, it will wipe out most of these trees because of the lack of genetic variation. 

Growing rootstock by seed can help reduce this problem.  Each tree has a different genetic mix and will be susceptible or hardy to different things than it's neighbour.   If we definitely want a specific tree, we graft after the second winter, but my preference is to wait and see what kind of fruit the tree creates.  If I don't like it, I graft or bud.

I can imagine a community where everyone saves the seeds from their fruit.  Plants them, then has grafting parties.  Those with land can hoast the trees for those without.  Or maybe semi-centralized centre(s) for seedlings.  Increase the number of fruit trees while increasing the economies of scale (lots of people working makes the job go faster and they can help each other improve technique) while giving the people three new skills (seed saving, seed planting, grafting) and some food (because what's a party without food?)
 
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I have been doing this work for decades.  You don't have to buy quince rootstock. If you have a quince tree, every time you prune it, put that stick into the ground and it will probably grow into a tree. Then graft pear onto it the next year. Get your pipeline going. 

Pear also easily grafts onto many types of hawthorn. I have many pear on hawthorn trees as well.  Hawthorn is a weed here too.  Free rootstock. There are also good edible medicinal hawthorns.

The vast majority of fruit varieties aren't patented, like 90%.  The kinds you see in stores or hear advertised are more likely to be patented. The patent wears off after 17 or 20 years or so.   Do a little research. In some parts of the country, there are scion exchanges. There are also many businesses that will sell you scion. I have done this through free exchanges and in the mail, and it works.

Many rootstocks aren't patented and they are nearly all cheap.  Some have suckers, which when removed from the trunk with a bit of root attached, form new trees.  Free rootstock. Replant it in a new locale and then graft that tree.

Grafting is a technique, like composting, planting, pruning, or training a tree.  Not hard, but you need patience. Once you get it, you can do it for the rest of your life.  Some trees are harder to graft. That's why we have experts, and why we can buy trees already grafted. 

There are many organizations that help redistribute the fruit on the trees that are already in neighborhoods. No need to chop down a tree at a house you move into. Learn how to use it.  People will help you.   In my town, it is Portland Fruit Tree Project.  Groups like this exist in many, many US cities.

We need to get people figuring out how to do this so we can adjust when the industrial/colonizing/extractive/polluting/greed based economy wears away.

John S
PDX OR

 
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This idea sounds a little bit like the Agrarian Sharing Network of the Pacific Northwest...?  Agrarian Sharing Network: Spring Propagation Fair

Is that sort of what you are talking about?  It's a scion exchange and grafting fair where people get together, share scions and teach each other how to graft, then take trees home and plant them.  It's great fun.  They don't seem to have any issues getting non-patented varieties that people want to grow.  If you check out a Raintree or One Green World catalog (companies that sell quite a wide variety of fruit trees), you'll see that only a very few fruit trees are patented, like people have already mentioned.  Those companies can't get away with selling plants without paying the patent fees, and last I looked, I think they both mention which they are (because, you, the buyer, pays the extra fee usually).  At least that was the case the last time I ordered trees, which was about 6 years ago.

It sort of sounds like you have a bigger goal, though.  A community-wide food security goal, is that correct?

In what I've observed, the hang up in a lot of households seems to be less food accessibility and more a lack of energy or knowledge as far as how to use the raw materials.  Not a lot of people want to do food processing anymore, it seems.  It is a lot of work... and growing and picking tends to be the lesser of it, oddly enough, at least in my experience.  I've spent so many hours cleaning, cutting, canning, drying (and rotating - oh! the rotating) in several types of dehydrators, blanching and freezing, fermenting and cooking, honey processing, cheese and wine and meadmaking... The time I've managed to do this with friends and family has been the most fun and pleasant, but the hardest to arrange with everyone's busy, busy life.

Besides being more accessible and less fatiguing, I think that making it a group activity does make food prep and processing a lot more fun.  I once went to a tuna canning party.  That was awesome!  Nice to divide the labor a bit.  Back in Eugene, Oregon, it's fairly easy to find or arrange those sort of get-togethers, as not as many people know how to can (jar) tuna.  Fermentation and cheesemaking classes also fill very fast there.  The demand is there, and the local food production has risen to meet it.

So I guess if I were to focus on how to cause a community-wide shift in the manner of local food and food security, I'd probably start on the processing end rather than the growing end first.  Arrange food processing groups, fermentation classes and tastings, etc.  I think that as more people learned the joy and empowerment of these activities, the raw materials would be in higher demand and I believe it would, eh, grow organically.  haha

Just ideas!  Good luck with yours!

 
John Saltveit
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Good point. A few volunteers doing service for zillions of people isn't very people connecting.

We also have a neighborhood sharing group in which some are great at growing vegies, others fruit, herbs, etc. People share their ideas of how to grow, cook, graft, biochar, hugulkulture, etc.  To paraphrase Yogi Berra, 50% of gardening is 90% social. 
John S
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My experience with community, and local production, is that people do what they love doing, and share the results of their doing with their neighbors. If someone in the community loves grafting apple trees, and they graft a lot of them, and take them to the farmer's market, or take an ad out in the local paper, or sell them to local nurseries, or get a reputation, then other members of the community may buy and/or plant those apple trees. Some members of the local community may become enamored of grafting, and likewise start grafting trees.

I don't worry at all about creating or maintaining a social network regarding my walnut breeding program. I send walnuts out into the community. They grow or die. People come and go. I watch the ecosystem in my community, and when mature seed-bearing walnut trees show up, I bring the nuts to my farm to start the next generation. Doesn't matter to me if they are descended from my trees or not. They are walnuts that produce seeds in our climate. That's the primary selection criteria right now.
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Community produced walnut seedlings
 
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r ranson wrote:

Grafting and budding is actually super-easy.  Probably the easiest thing I do on the farm.  Like crazy-easy.  There are even tools you can buy to make it even easier.  I can't express how easy I find this task and a success rate of over 95% (I get 100%, the others on the farm have the occasional failures).  I know people are frightened of this task, but I think if they actually tried it, or took advantage of some of the free training that is available (several other sources of training in our town for this skill), then I wouldn't see the need for a professional team.



R Ranson, come teach meeeee!
 
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I have about 50% success with tree grafts... Not knowing what I'm doing, using the wrong equipment and supplies, at the wrong time of year, etc... That's fine with me. I do twice as many as I hope to end up with. If they all take, then that's just a bonus.
 
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five days of natural building (wofati and cob) and rocket cooktop oct 8-12, 2018
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