The Project

By the people, of the people, for the people!

The Boston Tree Party is an urban agriculture project, a performative re-imagining of  American political expression, and a participatory public art project.  At its core, the Party is a diverse coalition of organizations, institutions, and communities from across the Greater Boston Area coming together in support of Civic Fruit. We call for the planting of fruit trees in civic space and promote the fruits of civic engagement. Each community has committed to planting and caring for a pair of heirloom apple trees. Together, these trees form a decentralized public urban orchard that symbolizes a commitment to the environmental health of our city, the vitality and interconnectedness of our communities, and the wellbeing of the next generation.

As an urban agriculture project, the Boston Tree Party creates vital gathering places and opportunities for learning, exchange, and participation.  The project builds community connections, both within and across communities, and improves community and environmental health.  As a conceptual art project, the Boston Tree Party catalyzes a deep and playful engagement with the issues of food access; health; environmental stewardship; biodiversity; public space; and civic engagement. The structure and design of the project playfully reimagine patriotic and political language, imagery, and forms of association.

The apple has a long and deep connection to the history of Boston. The first apple orchard in the American Colonies was planted by William Blackstone on Beacon Hill in 1623.  The oldest variety of apple in the United States, the Roxbury Russet, was developed in Roxbury in the 1630s.   The Boston Tree Party celebrates and recontextualizes this history and envisions Boston as a city of apples once again.

Apple trees must be planted in heterogeneous pairs (two different varieties of apples must be planted together) in order to cross-pollinate and bear fruit.  The Boston Tree Party takes these trees as inspiration.  We too are interdependent and need to work across divisions to effectively address the pressing social and environmental issues we face. We too must cross-pollinate and seek out and value diversity, not just because we need to, but because that’s how you get the sweetest and juiciest fruit.

The planting campaign launched on April 10, 2011 on the Rose Kennedy Greenway with the Boston Tree Party Inauguration–the ceremonial planting of the first pair of apple trees in this city-wide planting campaign. The event also included a celebratory rally featuring Edith Murnane (the Food Tzar of the City of Boston), Michael Phillips and John Bunker (the Official Pomologists), the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center “Let’s Get Moving” Tree Planting Delegation; music by the Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band; a Wassailing of the trees; free apple cider; Central Asian Barbecue (apples originated in Central Asia); and opportunities to learn more about the project.

In 2011, the first group of participating Tree Planting Delegations each received a Tree Party Kit.  These 37 Delegations consisted of 55 organizations ranging from schools to assisted living centers, synagogues to churches, and neighborhood groups to hospitals. The Kit allowed each community to design and create its own festive Tree Planting Party tailored to its own needs and interests. All across the city communities planted the seeds of Civic Fruit.

In 2012,  18 new Delegations, consisting of 23 communities and organizations, joined the party. (For the full list of Delegations, please see below)

The project will culminate in the fall of 2015, the year of the first full harvest, with the Boston Tree Party Convention—a city wide harvest festival, and an opportunity for participants to celebrate the project, form new connections, and get inspired.  Intervening years will feature smaller summits and socials that will bring together this diverse network of organizations and individuals.

All horticultural aspects of the projects are guided by official Tree Party Pomologists John Bunker and Michael Phillips. We will be working with them and with other local gardening education organizations to offer apple tree care education for participating communities.

238 years ago, a small group of people dumped several tons of tea into Boston Harbor, and with this symbolic, performative act, launched the movement for American Independence.  With the symbolic planting of these apple trees, we hope to help catalyze a new movement—a movement that works across boundaries to make healthy, fresh food accessible to all; a movement to green our cities; a movement that plants fruit trees in public spaces all over the country; and a movement that comes together to care for these trees and the well-being of all citizens.  We hope to inspire and nurture an ethos of stewardship that starts with these apple trees and radiates outwards to our city, our nation, and our planet.



Boston Natural Areas Network
Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness
City Sprouts
Groundwork Somerville
Northeast Organic Farming Association/Mass
Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy
YouthBuild Boston



Artists in Context
The Boston University Center for Energy and Environmental Studies
The Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School
The Charles River Conservancy
Chefs Collaborative
Dorchester Environmental Health Coalition
The Food Project
The RAFT Alliance (Restoring America’s Food Traditions)
Red Tomato
Shape Up Somerville
The Sustainable Business Network of Boston
Slow Food Boston
The Tufts Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy Department
The Urban Homesteaders‘ League


  • Adams Street Library (Dorchester)
  • Allston Parents and Community Build Group/Ringer Park Partnership Group (Allston)
  • Belmont School (Belmont)
  • BOLD Teens (Dorchester)
  • Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness/Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition (Mattapan)
  • Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness/Neighborhood of Affordable Housing Inc. (East Boston)
  • Boston Day and Evening Academy (Roxbury)
  • Boston Latin School (Fenway)
  • Boston Nature Center (Mattapan)
  • Boston University Center for Energy and Environmental Studies (Allston)
  • Carney Hospital (Dorchester)
  • Children’s Cooperative Montessori School (Hyde Park)
  • deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum (Lincoln)
  • Dorchester Environmental Health Coalition/Ashmont Adams Neighborhood Association/Boston Home (Dorchester)
  • East Boston Neighborhood Health Center: Let’s Get Moving Program (East Boston)
  • First Church and Parish (Dedham)
  • First Church (Somerville)
  • First Circle Alternative High School (Somerville)
  • Gately Community Center/Peabody School/City Sprouts/Cambridge Plant & Garden Club (Cambridge)
  • Groundwork Somerville (Somerville)
  • Harvard University Community Garden/Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School (Cambridge)
  • Healthy Waltham/ChesterBrook Gardens (Waltham)
  • Inly School (Scituate)
  • Massachusetts Horticultural Society (Wellesley)
  • Noble and Greenough School (Dedham)
  • Rose Kennedy Greenway (Financial District)
  • Roxbury Community College (Roxbury)
  • Shape Up Somerville (Somerville)
  • Springhouse Assisted Living Center (Jamaica Plain)
  • Somerville Climate Action (Somerville)
  • Tech Networks of Boston/Southie Trees/South Boston Grows/Paraclete Academy (South Boston)
  • Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition/Quincy Elementary School (Chinatown)
  • Tufts University  (Medford)
  • YouthBuild Boston/Nuestra Communidad/Grand Families (Dorchester)
  • United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury/ South End/Lower Roxbury Open Space Land Trust (Roxbury)
  • Watertown Housing Agency/Watertown Citizens for the Environment (Watertown)
  • William H Lincoln School (Brookline)