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SW ATL: 'Concrete Jungle' farming fruit off Atlanta's streets

8:49 PM, May 26, 2011   |    comments
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Aubrey Daniels, Craig Durkin and Robby Astrove have started picking serviceberries along Lucille Avenue in Southwest Atlanta.
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  • ATLANTA - You might call it "urban farming". A group of young men are finding a bountiful harvest within the concrete jungle that is the City of Atlanta.

    Aubrey Daniels, Craig Durkin and Robby Astrove have started picking serviceberries along Lucille Avenue in Southwest Atlanta.
    A serviceberry is sort of like a blueberry. It's native to North America and it grows all over the continent, the three explained.

    More often than not, the fruits fall to the ground, wasted.

    And that's not the only fruit growing on the streets of Atlanta.

    Along medians, in alleyways and right out in the open, these three young men discovered a bouty of fruits with names unfamiliar: the serviceberry, the loquat, the paw paw. They also found blackberries, apples and pears.

    "We saw thousands of pounds of apples that would just drop for no good reason," Daniels said.

    The serviceberries grow on trees planted on public property. Essentially, they're public fruit.

    The vast availability of unwanted fruit seemed like an opportunity, so the trio started investigating. They found 300 fruit trees on public property throughout the city, 500 more on private property, so they asked permission to pick the fruit there, too. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, people don't want what grows in their yard," Durkin said.

    It was through the discovery of this previously unwanted fruit that Concrete Jungle was born, and the picking began. "Last year we picked over 2,200 pounds of fruit," Astrove said. 

    With more than enough fruit to satisfy their own cravings, Daniels, Durkin and Astrove starting giving their harvest away. They donate what they gather to shelters, orphanages and anywhere else where fresh fruit is in short supply.

    "They started bringing us stuff and it's wonderful," Mercy Community Church Pastor Chad Hyatt said.

    Hyatt turns to the serviceberries into jelly. In the summertime, his church will receive hundreds of pounds of fruit a week. Other shelters will benefit similarly from Concrete Jungle.

    It's a lot of work for three guys with day jobs.

    The Concrete Jungle team downplays why they do this, saying that it's fun and it's nice to be outside, in undiscovered parts of the city.

    It probably is those things, but to those on the receiving end of these overlooked gifts of the city, it's something more.

    "That kind of sharing and that kind of concern, that's the sort of thing that knits us together and I think just sharing the simple gifts, that's what life's about," Hyatt said.

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