At the Boston Tree Party inauguration Sunday, communities, businesses and passers-by will be making their mark on the city by planting apple trees in public spaces. Like the historical Tea Party, the Tree Party is meant to be a symbolic act supporting community involvement and urban agriculture.
The Tree Party kicks off Sunday with an all-day-long planting festival modeled after a 19th-century political rally. There will be speeches by pomologists and Boston food czar Edith Murnane, a Central Asian barbecue honoring the apple's historic birthplace, a traditionally raucous "wassailing" to ensure the health of the new plantings, and a New Orleans-style second line.
Thirty-five delegations have signed on for the party, with about 30 more being processed. By the end of the day, the Tree Party will have planted 100 pairs of heirloom apple trees in public spaces.
John Bunker, one of the pomologists who will be speaking at the event, explains how apples, native to Central Asia, have become central to New England identity. Early settlers brought over apple seeds rather than cuttings to save space. But since apple trees breed with unpredictable traits when planted from seed, what followed were centuries of agricultural experimentation to perfect the American apple varieties that have come to dominate stores today.
For him, that process has become an indelible part New England history.
"To me that is a key part of our agricultural heritage, and that regardless of whether or not we are from Maine or Boston or whatever, or how many generations we go back -- whether it's 10 generations or 15 generations or one generation -- where we live is an important part of our heritage," he told AOL News.
"If we live in an agricultural region, which New England and Boston does, that heritage becomes ours. Even if we're first generation."
According to Gross, one of the most rewarding aspects of the project has been seeing communities of different backgrounds across the city supporting apples with equal zeal. What each community does with their fruit will be up to them.
"One of the exciting things about this project is that these trees will become focal points for each community," Gross said. "It's about creating and supporting an ethos of stewardship. It's kind of exciting to see what each community will do: Will they bake apple pies? Make apple cider? Let people pick them off the street? Share them with a homeless shelter?"
The city has been generally supportive, but due to concern over maintenance, the Tree Party won't be planting anything on public land. But Gross hopes that if they can prove themselves responsible stewards of this year's trees, they might get access to some city-controlled green space in the future.