Harvesting the Farm

Nov. 8, 2011, 1:00 a.m.
Harvesting the Farm
(IVY NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily)

When it comes to trees, Stanford takes the cake. Its tree community is vast, from the iconic palms along Palm Drive to the illustrious unofficial mascot. But Stanford also has dozens of edible fruit trees tucked away in nearly every corner of the Farm.

According to retired chief groundskeeper Herb Fong, many of these fruit trees on campus were intended for human consumption. Fong spent 36 years planting, designing and maintaining the Stanford landscape. His long-term goal during his time at Stanford included planting as many trees and plants as possible, including fruit trees, to maintain Stanford’s farm experience. Fong chose trees that were self-sustaining and wouldn’t require extensive maintenance.

“There are a good deal of students who come from the East Coast or other parts of the world that have never seen an orange tree or an avocado tree or some of the more exotic fruits and vegetables that we have on campus,” Fong said. “It’s kind of fun to provide an opportunity for people to experience those things.”

Even before Fong arrived on campus, several fruit trees were already here. Leland Stanford wanted to plant trees from all over the world, and Jane Stanford desired the campus to host biblical plants. Born from their wishes were a variety of trees across campus.

Pomegranate trees grow in Governor’s Corner and in the islands of the Inner Quad. Stanford’s Avocado Courtyard is by Building 120. These trees, tested by both time and squirrels, have stood for over 100 years, even after being threatened by construction in 1979. Citrus Courtyard, located in the History Corner, houses tangerine, kumquat, blood orange and lemon trees. The exotic fare includes a Buddha’s hand citrus tree, which has a yellow fruit with bumpy tendrils. A strawberry tree, bearing yellow ball-shaped fruits that turn red when ripe, is at the Escondido Road cul-de-sac across from Meyer Library. A pineapple guava bush grows behind Stern near the Munger Graduate Residences. That plant is used for hedging but provides ripe fruit in the fall.

Other exotic plants on the Farm include Japanese fuyu and hachiya persimmons near Rains Houses and behind the bookstore, respectively, pomelo in the entry courtyard of Toyon Hall and tangerines by Florence Moore Hall.

Although they’re supposed to be low-maintenance trees, they still need attention. So who takes care of them? This is where Stanford Glean comes into play. Glean is a service organization on campus that harvests the fruit. Caitlin Brown ’12 and Susannah Poole ’11, inspired after taking environmental earth system science professor Page Chamberlain’s introductory seminar “Food & Community,” founded the group. The picked fruit is donated to different free food stands in the Bay Area. Glean also finds and catalogues the locations of the different fruit trees using a user-edited Google Map. The current co-presidents, Tim Huang ’14 and Jovel Queirolo ’14, continue the founders’ mission.

The group hosts two gleaning trips every week, one on Thursday mornings at 10 a.m. for seminar students, and one on Friday afternoons at 4:15 p.m. open to everyone. Part of their philosophy is to share the fruit with everyone through their work with free food stands and with their on-campus harvesting trips.

“When you take the time to pick your own fruit, it tastes better. It tastes richer,” Huang said.

From apple trees to pineapple guava bushes, the Stanfords and groundskeepers provided this campus with a host of different edible trees. Whether students are hungry, charitable or just want a new taste of campus, the University’s many trees are here to pick.

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