The Good News File: The Mecca Tree

Albuquerque, NM (KKOB) – In 1984 Katie Braziel bought her home in the heart of Albuquerque. When she moved in, the backyard was full of Bermuda grass, some weeds, and two tiny fruit trees, one of which her dog promptly chewed down to a nub. 31 years later, Erin Garrison with the nonprofit, Food Is Free ABQ, saw that same tree hanging over the wall of an alley, each branch beaming with golden apricots. She knocked on Braziel’s door and asked if she could harvest the fruit to donate to local food banks. “I was so grateful,” Braziel said. That first year, FIFABQ harvested more than 700 pounds of human-edible fruit from the tree they’ve since dubbed, The Mecca Tree. “It has that name because I just started calling it that. I mean it felt like an oasis. It felt like we had found this massive gem in the heart of Albuquerque,” said Garrison. The less desirable apricots that could not be given to food banks for people to eat did not go to waste. Instead, they were fed to local farm animals. “I have a great distaste for waste,” Braziel said. “My parents grew up in the depression. So I like to see things used to their fullest ability.”

For the better part of a decade, Braziel’s apricot tree has donated at least 300 pounds of fruit to the community she lives in. This year, the tree provided 544 pounds of the stone fruit which was in turn taken to places like the Rio Grande food project, The storehouse, and East Mountain Food Bank.  Braziel tells News Radio KKOB that she believes the tree’s fruit helps nourish the neighborhood, not just physically, but emotionally. She’s one of many backyard gardens, private orchards, and even local farms that open their gates to FIFABQ and its many eager volunteers year-round to ensure nothing goes to waste. Garrison says the feeling of community that comes with the simple task of harvesting with friends, and strangers feels magical. “To be able to not just share the fruit with people but to share the stories. The stories of the trees, the stories of our community members…has been such an amazing experience.” You can learn more about FIFABQ, how to join their list of harvest homes, and become a volunteer, by clicking here.