As the final stretch of the work week arrives, students and community members can purchase freshly picked fruit from the Fullerton Arboretum every Thursday to savor over the weekend.
For decades, the arboretum has served the local community by producing and harvesting seasonal fruits. During the colder months citrus, including Valencia oranges native to Southern California, is sold in bundles for five dollars. The spring season brings peaches, nectarines, plums and pluots to the stand. Apples, pears and persimmons are harvested during the fall months.
With 26 acres of land, the arboretum houses typical fruit found in grocery stores, along with several uncommon fruits, according to arboretum data.
Amy Bulone, a horticulturist at the arboretum, said all fruit-bearing trees are found on the arboretum grounds while the more uncommon trees are located within the rare fruit collection.
“We decided the plan is that we are going to pick fruit every Thursday morning and, hopefully, Thursday afternoon there will always be fruit on the stand,” said Bulone.
Between April and Dec. 4, over 200 pounds of fruit were sold, according to arboretum data.
Beginning at noon on Thursdays, fruit is placed on the stand and remains for sale until all items have been sold. Typically, the sale runs through Sunday, but with large crowds gathering at the arboretum on the weekends, the fruit sells quickly, Bulone said.
Before reopening after the pandemic, the arboretum staff established a plan to harvest fruit weekly to give back to the community.
The campus food pantry partners with the arboretum and several grocery stores to provide students with freshly picked fruit each week.
Bulone said that between February and December of 2022, the arboretum donated over 1,300 pounds of fruit to the food pantry, and that they composted nearly 5,000 pounds of waste from grocery stores.
The grocery store produce has a limited shelf life, so the arboretum utilizes the higher nitrogen levels in the expiring fruit to create a compost concoction.
“We do not generally use fertilizer,” Bulone said. “We make the compost and we spread it under the trees, so it kind of gives the nutrients back and we generally don’t use any pesticides.”
Community members and student volunteers are welcome daily to help tend to the plants and prepare the fruit for the sales. With a flexible sign-up calendar, volunteers are welcome to participate with no long-term commitments.
Regular volunteers allow the arboretum to harvest plenty of fruit to sell over the weekend. Volunteer positions include tree pruning, fruit picking, spreading compost around the trees and removing weeds from the area.
“If we don’t have any volunteers, we just pick it by ourselves, so the volume of fruit picking can vary depending on how many people are participating,” Bulone said.
Volunteers are essential from March through the beginning of the summer as the Valencia oranges ripen. The arboretum houses large masses of these oranges, which must be picked once ripened to reduce waste.
An orientation and information meeting for new volunteers will be held at the arboretum Feb. 4 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Feb. 9 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.