Lemon-growing initiative taking root at juvenile hall 

The road toward food sustainability in San Francisco could be paved with jams from juvenile hall.

An effort to plant fruit trees on under-utilized public land — and making The City the first U.S. urban area to produce all the lemons it consumes — is scheduled to begin Saturday, when about 25 lemon trees will be planted on a heretofore-neglected strip of mulched soil near the Juvenile Justice Center on Woodside Avenue near Twin Peaks. More trees will be planted inside the holding facility’s walls in the spring.

The plantings are part of an effort to sprout up to 12,000 Meyer lemon trees on public and private land.

That would be enough to cover all of San Francisco’s lemon use: 3 pounds per person per year, or about 12,400 tons.

There are currently 1,275 registered lemon trees in San Francisco, according to Isabel Wade, a longtime advocate of urban farming.

The juvenile hall project — the first of several on the roughly 400 acres of public land nearby that grow little aside from grass and shrubs — will put The City closer to sustainability, but will also help youth offenders there learn life skills, Wade said.

Youths will learn to care for the trees as well as make some money by selling jams, soaps, lip balm and other products produced from the fruit.

Lemons grow easily in San Francisco, fog belt and all, and are good for a drought: they can be watered with a 5-gallon bucket, Wade noted, and can take recycled bath or laundry water.

“There’s a lot of opportunity here,” she said.

Other cities in other countries, such as Argentina, grow orange trees on public plazas.

The Department of Public Works donated the soil and $1,000 from the Neighborhood Parks Alliance paid for the trees.


What: Planting lemon trees at Juvenile Justice Center

Where: 450 Woodside Ave., S.F.

When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

Info: justonetree.org

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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