.By Chris Treadway
Contra Costa Times
Updated: 09/22/2012 04:45:22 AM PDT

The greening of Richmond took another step and another shade -- as in olive green -- on Friday.

A donation of 1,000 olive trees from McEvoy Ranch, a prestigious Petaluma-based organic olive grower and olive oil producer, arrived for initial distribution to the community.

Trees were given out starting at noon at the farmers market at 24th Street and Barrett Avenue, where representatives of the ranch and city officials joined Linda Schneider, founder of the group that arranged the donation.

"We are truly becoming a city of fruit-bearing trees to further our healthy Richmond direction," said Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who attended the distribution event. "Trees are known to improve air quality, beautify our community and even help reduce crime."

While McLaughlin was speaking Friday, the space shuttle Endeavour flew overhead, prompting gasps from onlookers. A pleased McLaughlin said the two events -- trees and space shuttle -- added up to a spotlight day for the city.

The donation was coordinated by Self-sustaining Communities, a community organization that originated in El Cerrito and is now based in Richmond. It tries to direct donations to underserved neighborhoods in the East Bay.

Over the past three years, the organization has negotiated donations of more than 10,000 fruit, nut and olive trees from California growers to help low-income areas provide for themselves.

McEvoy Ranch, which also donated trees in 2009, is making up to 3,000 trees available this time if there is demand and homes are found for Friday's batch.

"If we give them out successfully, we can get up to 3,000 total," Schneider said. "The city is giving out instructions that the olive grower has on its website that will help people care for the trees."

The self-pollinating trees will also be taken to community centers around Richmond to ensure a widespread distribution in the community.

The ranch is phasing out its nursery operation because of the poor economy and wants to use its stock to assist Richmond and other communities in need, said Samantha Dorsey, the operation's nursery and vineyard manager.

"The McEvoy family is committed to being active and thoughtful members of the community," she said, adding that the commitment includes a standing offer to mill harvested olives for free.

"Because processing facilities are few and far between, we thought it was important to extend that offer to Richmond residents," Dorsey said.

Schneider's organization, with support from the city, has established urban farms and other pilot projects in Richmond, including methods of building low-cost housing out of local, renewable materials.

"It's a lot of hard, continuous work, but it seems to work out well," she said.

Schneider said arrangements would be made to take olives to Petaluma when the time comes.

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