By Miguel Vargas
Bill Hock can often be found in his backyard in Downey, carefully pruning his 7-foot fig tree. He does this slowly and methodically, snipping the branches at a diagonal and gently placing each twig in water.
The tree produces hundreds of figs each year, that are a big hit with his family, friends and neighbors. About two years ago, Hock realized that through some clever gardening, he could recreate that joy in families across Southeast Los Angeles — an area that lacks easy access to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Hock was inspired, so he got to work. Those twigs were soon moved into potted soil, where each branch was cared for until they grew to be able to survive on their own.
This month, TreePeople helped Hock fulfill his goal of giving away as many fruit trees as he could grow. As part of a fruit tree adoption in Huntington Park, more than 40 residents took home fig trees grown by Hock to plant at their homes.
“You can just give people figs,” he said. “Or you can give them a tree so they can plant one of their own.”
Southeast Los Angeles is a “food desert”– or an area where a high percentage of households have limited access to grocery stores with healthy, nutritious foods. The region is also an area that is heavily impacted by extreme heat due to the low amount of trees.
To fight against this inequity, TreePeople works to provide fruit tree adoptions in communities that lack shade and access to healthy food.
Fruit tree adoptions are very popular in the region. This year, TreePeople has given over 500 fruit trees, including 250 in nearby Commerce. The event in Huntington Park and in Commerce both sold out in a matter of days.
“They can just eat the figs or give them away,” Hock said. ”That is what they are there for.”
Hock began experimenting with 20 or 30 trees after researching online that the process is relatively simple: prune the branch a certain way, put it in water so it can acclimate and then put it in a pot with soil. He has since cloned over 100 trees.
The goal of his project is to give away as much fruit as he can to anyone that will benefit and enjoy them. He has no intention of profiting from his work, only wanting to provide something nice for people, especially during such a difficult time.
Hock intends to continue working with TreePeople and has begun cloning peaches and apricots for future events. Hock said he hopes that those who receive his fruit trees enjoy them and that they provide them fruit for decades to come.
“Treat them like you would your children,” he said.