A volunteer zooms around town in the TreeMobile in this TreeMoble logo.

A volunteer zooms around town in the TreeMobile in this TreeMobile logo.

Saving the world, one tree at a time

Anyone who watches Hollywood movies knows that saving the world isn’t easy. Sometimes even the coolest superheroes need a little help.

Batman couldn’t have mopped up crime in Gotham City without his Batmobile. Similarly, the dedicated team behind Transition Guelph and Transition Toronto has their “TreeMobile” which revs up its engines once a year to deliver fruit trees to urbanites wanting to live a more sustainable life.

Transition Guelph and Transition Toronto are part of a worldwide “Transition Town” movement, which encourages citizens to launch projects that will make their communities more resilient in the face of climate change.

One of the ways they do this is by encouraging city dwellers to grow their own food by planting annual vegetable gardens and perennial crops like fruit trees in their gardens, schoolyards, or even local parks.

That’s where the TreeMobile idea came in.

Virginie Gysel helps mulch the new trees at the Harcourt Community Orchard.

Virginie Gysel helps mulch the new trees at the Harcourt Community Orchard.

In January of 2011, landscape designer Virginie Gysel attended a Transition Guelph meeting where members were passionately discussing ways to increase local food security.

“I stood up in the meeting and said ‘Let’s not talk about food security, let’s plant it, starting this spring!’  People nodded and about 20 volunteered immediately to help Virginie get started.

“I was determined to plant hundreds of trees right away!”

“I was determined to plant hundreds of fruit trees right away! Luckily, they brought me to my senses and helped me realize that we’d have to start small and work our way up,” Virginie laughs.

Working with trees wasn’t new for Virginie who grew up on a tree farm and wholesale nursery. As a child, she helped her father graft and plant thousands of trees. Later in life she studied landscape architecture and became a landscape designer, specializing in sustainable landscapes.

Working in the industry, she was able to order large numbers of trees wholesale, but that was just a small part of the organizational feat necessary to get the treemobile project moving. She and the other volunteers had to figure out how to market and sell their trees, take orders, arrange substitutions when necessary and how to deliver dozens of bare-root trees city-wide in a single day.

TreeMobiles deliver up to a thousand new fruiting plants to Ontario urbanites each year

After months of planning, the first TreeMobiles swooped into action in April 2011, delivering 150 plants including fruiting trees and shrubs. In the second year, they added rhubarb and asparagus to their offerings and orders increased to 250 plants.Year 3 saw a huge increase in sales when Transition Guelph built a website to sell plants online.  That year sales nearly quadrupled.

By the fourth year the program had expanded to Toronto,  delivering almost 1000 trees, shrubs and perennial plants in two cities in one day.

“Our program keeps expanding as more and more people are growing their own food,” Virginie explains, “and we’re seeing more fruit trees everywhere. Options such as currants are attractive plants that can easily be tucked into foundation plantings and hedges, and we also have some smaller fruit trees for urban gardens. Why not make your land productive as well as beautiful? And there is nothing like picking an organic apple on a crisp, cold, windy autumn day.”

Tree orders in Toronto and Guelph begin mid-January 2015

Want to jump on board and meet some fruit tree planting superheroes at the same time? Orders begin for the Transition Guelph and Transition Toronto TreeMobile project in mid-January 2015. The group is offering a huge variety of fruiting trees and shrubs for you to choose from, at reasonable prices.

It’s a great opportunity to do your part in making your community more sustainable. And once your tree is in the ground, remember that it’s up to you to care for your tree to ensure its health and productivity. That’s why this year the TreeMobile team will also be offering copies of my fruit tree care book, Growing Urban Orchards, to teach you how to care for your new trees.

TreeMobile and Orchard People soon introducing new Edible Garden Grant for community gardens

Also…TreeMobile and Orchard People will be collaborating to offer a new Edible Garden Grant for schools and community groups including a donation of fruit trees and other fruiting plants and fruit tree care education. Make sure you’re on our mailing list and we’ll tell you as soon as the grant is open for applications!

For more information visit or watch the cool TreeMobile video below to see the team in action!


Susan Poizner is the author of Growing Urban Orchards: The Ups, Downs and How-Tos of Fruit Tree Care in the City. She is the creator of Orchard People e-Learning Workshops. She is also the director of fruit tree consulting and education company Orchard People.