Forage Oakland -- New Beta app, Forage City
Foraging Fruit – Meeting Neighbors
“You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.” –Will Rogers, American actor and humorist
By Julie Powell
When Asiya Wadud, founder of Forage Oakland, saw the abundance of fruit trees in her neighborhood on the border of North Oakland and Berkeley, California, she went out on a limb literally and figuratively.
In addition to the bountiful supply of fruit, Asiya saw that a lot of fruit was going unused. “There was wasted fruit. I wanted to start a broader dialogue about how people use resources,” she explains. “Forage Oakland was designed as a barter network that was free for people to harvest fruit, and in return, they could receive fruit at that time or later in the season. Apples to apples, or plums to plums.”
In the spring of 2008, Forage Oakland became an offshoot of Temescal Amity Works, which was a fruit harvesting/community engagement project created by neighborhood artists. “I picked up where they left off,” says Asiya. The project began organically; “I would harvest or people would contact me online with their address, what excess fruit they had, what they wanted in exchange and the range of time to come.” Asiya would bike around the neighborhood to harvest by herself or with friends. There was no formal storage facility. Instead, Asiya sorted the fruit in her living room. “I had no furniture but lots and lots of fruit,” she laughs. Neighbors flocked to the popular quarterly exchanges of jams, marmalades and fresh fruits in the Temescal area. “It was a great community hang out, a place to meet neighbors.”
Soon the project grew, and Asiya was receiving emails from people who wanted to engage but didn’t have fruit. In 2010, Asiya partnered with Youth Radio, an Internet and public radio station presented by young people. Youth Radio runs Mobile Action Lab, a program that connects young people with developers and designers to create community-centered apps for smart phones. “I thought the app would be a good way to connect people who had time with people who had fruit,” explains Asiya. She and a team of four high school students and two designers from Berkeley worked for a little over two years to create a mobile app called Forage City—just released in beta form in late summer 2012. “The app expands the reach of Forage Oakland, but doesn’t have the trust aspect and relationship building that you get in person.” Asyia started by simply connecting neighbors to neighbors. Now the app allows a broader audience to be reached. They hope to connect people with excess fruit to food banks, shelters, after school programs and farmers’ markets. By including community groups, the Mobile Action Lab team meets their aim of not just reaching those with access to technology, but using non-profits and other intermediaries to reach people who want fruit, but don’t have a means to pay for it.
The app also relieves Asiya, who is a graduate student at UC Berkeley, from the time intensive task of facilitating every interaction herself. She hopes to ramp up Forage Oakland efforts again after graduation. In the meantime, the community can enjoy the fruits of her labor through Forage City. And hopefully, she has inspired others to go out on a limb by getting to know their neighbors, enjoying seasonal fruits and helping feed those in need.