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Jason Wong

Citizen Science: San Francisco Aims For Self-Sufficiency in Lemons

“Citizen Science” refers to the method of relying on everyday people to collect or analyze data as part of a larger scientific project. With the advent of Internet technology, this method of research– akin to crowd-sourcing– has become more popular than ever before, especially for environmental scientists, whose research often encompasses large areas of land that would otherwise not be feasible to visit. For Lil’ Sprouts, Citizen Science projects offer the chance for accessible, hands-on environmental education in one’s own backyard. Some of the projects we feature are adventurous nature treks while others are more leisurely undertakings– but all encourage exploring nature in one capacity or another.

Below, read our profile of Just One Tree, which imagines a future where locally-grown produce is readily available in urban areas. Read more of GC’s Citizen Science profiles here.

Founded in 1981, Urban Resource Systems is a small San Francisco based non-profit built on the idea that cities cannot just be consumers: they must also be producers. URS’s latest initiative in pursuit of making their mission a reality is Just One Tree, a project that seeks to turn public land into a viable space for growing produce available to all.

As a trial run, Just One Tree is making San Francisco self sufficient in lemons. (Why lemon trees, you ask? Lemons are easy to grow, you can add their foliage into bouquets, and they have a lovely scent– making them an all-around excellent addition to the home and public streetscapes. Plus: lemon trees bear fruit in their first year of life, so there’s no need to wait around to reap the benefits of one’s labor.) According to estimates, San Francisco needs 12,000 lemons trees to be self-sufficient in this crop; there are already between three-and four-thousand lemon trees planted throughout the city. As a result, Just One Tree operates as a two-part project: first, the project seeks to register existing lemon trees in the area, and second, they aim to plant enough trees to fill the gap between what the city has and what is needed. 

Currently, Just One Tree is working with Demonstration Gardens, and has fifty lemon trees ready to be planted throughout the Tenderloin neighborhood. A few trees will be planted around parks and at senior centers, but the rest are awaiting homes. Kasey Asberry, the heart and soul behind Demonstration Gardens, is looking for stewards that will care for the trees. Those interested may visit Demonstration Gardens (open from 12-5 PM, Tuesday through Friday); volunteers will be assigned to care for a lemon tree in the city. If you don’t have time to come out, be sure to register your own San Francisco lemon tree at home!

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