By Austen Krantz
Baton Rouge will literally reap the benefits of Baton Rouge Green’s City Citrus project following the latest installment of six new sites of citrus trees this year.
The project, which began last year by planting Satsuma trees at three sites, will continue to plant and maintain citrus trees in unused urban and suburban space for any member of the community to grab a fruity snack from.
Since planting trees at some pilot sites last year, City Citrus received enough feedback from the community to find a growing number of locations that will host and maintain the trees — a key part of the project. While the project plants the trees, the Citrus Shepherds, or site owners, will have the responsibility of maintaining the trees and ensuring their fruit will be available to the public.
“We like the citrus shepherds to approach us,” said program director Robert Seemann. “Once we get the trees planted and established, we’re here as a basis of information.”
City Citrus provides anything from watering information that references the local rainfall, to help in assessing an unhealthy tree or any other problems that may arise with the sites, Seemann said.
“It’s kind of their show, and we like them to be really involved with what’s going on with the site,” he said.
These Citrus Shepherds range from individual property owners to community organizations, businesses and churches. But Seemann explained a large part of what draws all these people to the program is the aesthetics of the citrus trees on their property and the opportunity to share with the community.
“What really attracts people to this program is the altruistic nature of it,” Seemann said. “It wouldn’t be as efficient as it is right now if we didn’t have people taking care of something and knowing it’s for the community. They’re maintaining with the intent that people will come take the fruit.”
The trees will begin producing fruit about two years after they’re planted, and another key part of the projects mission is ensuring their fruit reaches the public when this happens — as the City Citrus’s slogan says, “Share the fruit.” As a result, the sites need to be in a location that’s open to the public, and if the sites are part of an institutions property, there must be a mechanism to help distribute the trees’ fruit.
Seemann cited Studio C, a future site location, as an example. The Government Street studio plans to establish two bins that will hold the trees’ fruit for anyone to take from.
“One of the most fun things about this job is talking to people and seeing their creative juices flow and the cogs turn in their heads,” Seemann said. “We don’t try to stifle creativity on the part of our shepherds when it comes to sharing.”
When the trees begin producing fruit, they’ll also yield more of a variety than just satsumas. The newer trees will include lemons, limes, kumquats and grapefruit. But they’re all built for the weather too.
“We work really hard to only plant cold tolerant types of citrus up here,” Seemann said. “We’re trying to push the boundaries as what we can do variety-wise but trying to keep the efficiency.”
City Citrus planted some of these new trees on the BREC Expressway Park Saturday, and the next installment will be at the BREC Highland Road Park on February 22. The project also plans future installments at Alexander’s Highland Market, the Baton Rouge Family Youth and Service Center and Studio C.