The goal of the Parkland Gleaning Project is to increase local access to fresh foods by planting fruit trees in city parks that community members can harvest from.
All edible trees in Billings have been mapped on (FallingFruit.org), a digitally-updated, accessible online resource. These fruit trees are a public food resource that the public can glean from. Gleaning is defined as the collection of excess fresh food from resources in the community and the distribution of it to those in need. Traditionally, gleaning takes place at local farms, grocery stores, and restaurants, and the food is often donated to food banks, soup kitchens, and other food exchange resources. Through the development of the Parkland Gleaning Project, the Billings Parks and Recreation Department wants to expand the definition of gleaning by creating a living map of existing food resources within the park system. Individuals can glean fruit for themselves and their families, and volunteers can glean excess fruit and donate it to the appropriate food distribution center. Every year, American consumers and businesses spend $218 billion on growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of food that is never eaten. That is 52 million tons of food sent to the landfill annually. Gleaning from public lands simultaneously helps to address the pressing issues of food insecurity and malnutrition in low-income neighborhood as well as the global effect of food waste and resource consumption.
According to the US Census Bureau, 10.2% of the population in Billings has been identified as experiencing poverty. In the South Side neighborhood, in particular, around 47% of the population is living below the federal poverty line. According to the 2020 Community Health Assessment of Yellowstone County, conducted by the Healthcare Alliance of Billings Clinic, RiverStone Health, and St. Vincent Healthcare, 22.7% of Yellowstone County residents have low food access, meaning they do not live near a supermarket or grocery store. Additionally, 18.1% of community residents are determined to be “food insecure”, having run out of food in the past year and/or been worried about running out of food.
The Parkland Gleaning Project hopes to provide households in multiple neighborhoods of Billings with the skills and resources necessary to harvest their own fruit from the park system. This will increase overall food security as residents will have easy access to free, healthy food.
The Parkland Gleaning Project was formed in 2018 through the collaborative efforts of the Billings Metro VISTA Project and the Parks and Recreation Department of Billings. It was formed with the following three themes in mind:
- Reach low-income citizens
- Create a localized food supply
- Build a self-sustaining sense of community
Food security is defined as “the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” Community gardens have been established over the years around the city to address food insecurity, and the gardens are now composed of a wide mix of individuals who grow their own produce and benefit from educational workshops each year. To take this mission a step further, the Parks and Recreation Department decided to label fruit-bearing trees within the parks system on a public database. By labeling and mapping the edible resources on a digitally updated, accessible map, community members have more autonomy over their food security.
We encourage community members to regularly access the online database on FallingFruit.org and/or to utilize the Parkland Gleaning brochures to learn about fruit tree locations around the city and to glean fruit from these trees for themselves and their families.
Additionally, we are recruiting volunteers to regularly visit the trees to glean excess fruit and distribute this food to relevant social welfare centers in Billings. The fruit will be distributed to low-income community members, rather than going to waste on the park grounds. Additionally, volunteers will take note of tree health, fruit yield, and quality of yield, and they will update this information on the FallingFruit.org database. See below for ways you can get involved as a volunteer in the Parkland Gleaning Project!
All of the Billings Parks and Recreation’s Fruit Trees have been mapped on FallingFruit.org. This website is a database through which anyone can map food-producing trees around the country and the world. The website was created as a resource for urban foraging and for people to reconnect with the land. This edible map also offers the opportunity for programs, such as the Parkland Gleaning Project, to encourage local community members and people experiencing poverty to seek out healthy, free food in their neighborhoods.
All of the imported datasets range from small neighborhood foraging to vast, professionally compiled tree inventories. The Billings Parks and Recreation database has been uploaded to the site, and if you visit any of the Parkland Gleaning Trees, we encourage you to find that particular tree on the FallingFruit.org website and update the fruiting status, fruit yield, and fruit quality of that tree. You can also take and upload photos of the trees if you feel inspired to do so!
Parkland Gleaning Parks
The parks listed below are the primary 7 parks included in the Parkland Gleaning Project. However, if you use FallingFruit.org, you will see that many other parks and public areas in Billings also contain fruit-producing trees. You can filter the map on Fallingfruit.org by park/area or by fruit type.
In October 2018, the HDR Green Team dedicated their time to planting 12 fruit-producing trees and shrubs in Comanche Park, including dwarf cherry shrubs, chokecherries, and pears. These fruit-bearing trees are located in the southeast corner of the park.
The planting at Highland Park was part of the United Way Day of Caring annual volunteer event. The Kamgrounds of America (KOA) group helped to plant various fruit-producing trees, including Honey Crisp, Ruby September, and Red Macintosh apples and Pembina and Toka plums.
Kings Green Park: Kings Green Dr., Billings, MT 59101
The Kings Green planting site is located just west of Kings Green Drive. A cluster of thirteen trees were planted close to the path that cuts through the green area between Ponderosa Elementary School and Kings Green Drive. Volunteers from Billings Downtown Rotary Club assisted with the initial planting in May of 2020.
The Lillis Park planting site is on the corner of Parkview Drive and Lillis Lane, toward the north side of the park. The Girl Scouts of Montana and their families helped to plant the apple, plum, and cherry trees at this park.
The Optimist Park planting site is located on the western edge of the park. Fifteen trees were planted along the pathway on that edge of the park so that people who pass through can glean fruit for themselves and their families. The fruit trees in the park include apple trees, pear trees, cherry trees, plum trees, and a peach tree. Volunteers from the HDR Green Team helped with this planting in May of 2020.
The Primrose Park planting site is located in the northwest corner of the park. Fifteen trees were planted in this corner, and tree varieties include apples, pears, cherries, and plums. Volunteers from Harvest Church, as well as some neighborhood volunteers, helped with this planting in October of 2020.
The Rose Park planting site is on the northwest edge of the park, by the horseshoe pit. There are multiple species of apple trees planted in the area, such as Honey Crisp and Sweet Sixteen, and plum trees, such as Waneta, Toka, and Black Ice. Volunteers from Billings Downtown Rotary Club assisted with the initial planting in the Spring of 2018.
We have a few different volunteer opportunities available (listed below) within the Parkland Gleaning Project. If you have questions or are interested in volunteering, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Picking Fruit: We are looking for individual volunteers and volunteer groups to commit to visiting a certain number of trees each season to glean the excess fruit on trees before it goes to waste. Volunteers will then deliver the fruit to a specified food distribution organization in Billings to serve low-income residents. Volunteers will also help to keep the FallingFruit.org database updated with tree health, fruit yield, fruit quality, photos of trees, etc.… If you are interested in helping with gleanings on an as needed basis as opposed to a long term basis, please reach out as well!
- Food Distribution Organizations: We are looking to partner with organizations in Billings that serve low-income populations and that are capable of distributing produce to said populations. Gleaning volunteers will coordinate with food distribution organizations to deliver the produce they pick from the fruit trees.
- Tree Planting: Most of the tree plantings for the Parkland Gleaning Project have already taken place, but Parks and Recreation will possibly host more tree plantings in the future. Look out for postings and updates from Parks and Recreation about volunteer opportunities like this.
Every time you harvest fruit from city trees, please fill out this survey. This survey will help us keep track of the impact of our project (i.e. number of people participating, amount of fruit being gleaned, demographics, etc..). The survey is entirely anonymous, so your demographic data will not be directly connected with your name or identity.
Trees on Private Property
In addition to the publicly mapped trees, we encourage community members to submit their own trees to fallingfruit.org. If you have trees on your property that produce fruit that often goes to waste each year, please add it to the website. If you feel comfortable with people coming on to your land to pick fruit, you can specify that in your description. If not, mark down that you would rather people contact you first and include your contact information.
If you have the time to do so, you can glean the fruit off of the trees on your property and donate that fruit to local organizations that serve low-income families. If you have more fruit than you can manage to glean alone, consider recruiting friends or family members to help you out! Make sure to contact organizations BEFORE showing up with fruit to donate.
See below for the list of organizations that will receive donations from the Parkland Gleaning Project:
- Billings Food Bank: 2112 4th Ave N, Billings, MT 59101
- Family Services: 3927 1st Avenue S, Billings, MT 59101
- Family Tree Center: 2520 5th Ave S, Billings, MT 59101
- Friendship House: 3123 8th Ave S, Billings, MT 59101
- Hannah House Ministries: 24 S 29th St, Billings, MT 59101
- Harvest Church Vicki’s Pantry: 1235 W Wicks Lane, Billings, MT 59105
- Montana Rescue Mission: 2822 Minnesota Ave, Billings, MT 59101
- Passages: 1001 S 27th St, Billings, MT 59101
- Ronald McDonald House: 1144 N 30th St, Billings, MT 59101
- Salvation Army: 2100 6th Ave N, Billings, MT 59101
- St Vincent De Paul: 3005 1st Ave S, Billings, MT 59101
- Tumbleweed: 505 N. 24th St, Billings, MT 59101
- Yellowstone Boys & Girls Ranch: 1732 72nd St W, Billings, MT 59106
Here are some fun recipes to try as you go about your foraging adventures!