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Hunting Flagstaff Fruit Tree History

Samuel Thomason

The history that surrounds public fruit trees in Flagstaff is what I would define as an extremely obscure subject. The majority of Flagstaff’s citizens most likely only noticed the fruit trees recently because of the abundance of rotten fruit littering the sidewalk. When I began my research into this obscure topic I expected to find very little information, perhaps a personal story or two from someone who grew up eating the fruit from the trees. I spent a day dedicated to poking around town talking to potential sources, which towards the end of the day left me empty-handed. To end my day of searching I went to the Northern Arizona Pioneer Museum which I expected to yield little if any information. The museum itself did not contain any information about the fruit trees around town however on my way out the door I mentioned my project to the museum curator in a last-ditch effort. The museum curator was unexpectedly the key to discovering the rich history behind the fruit trees in Flagstaff. It turned out that the curator had moved to Flagstaff during the ’70s and was quite good friends with many of the people that had a part in planting the fruit trees. He informed me that the majority of the trees were planted by the Alpine Garden Club and that the NAU Special Archives had a collection of newspapers that highlighted the history of the club. After chatting for about an hour about the organization that planted the majority of the trees and where I could locate in-depth records I left the museum feeling excited to investigate the Special Archives collection.

The next day I went to the Special Archives located in the Cline Library at NAU to look for the collection that the museum curator had directed me towards. The archives collection contained more information than I could have hoped for about the mysterious Flagstaff Fruit Trees. It turned out that during the ’60s Flagstaff started an event that encouraged citizens to focused on beautifying the community. The Flagstaff Alpine Garden Club was once a prominent organization that sold apple trees annually to fundraise for their organization during the community beautification event. The majority of the trees sold were crab apple trees that produced beautiful blossoms when they bloom, many of these apple trees can still be found along sidewalks or in parks across town. The intention of the Alpine Garden club was to create a prettier environment for their community but during this process, they unintentionally accomplished something else. By planting crabapple trees they ended up providing the community with public fruit that could be consumed by Flagstaff community members. Flagstaff Foodlink and the Community University Public Inquiry program partnered to fight food insecurity in the Flagstaff community and recognized these fruit trees as an abundant resource waiting to be taken advantage of. The answer to taking full advantage of the fruit produced by these trees is to create an interactive fruit tree map that will allow community members to access fruit from these trees and the rich history that accompanies them. With a completed map and blog that provides free information about the trees, the goal of the fruit tree map is to get community members out gleaning during peak fruit season.


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