Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sharing the early fruits starts now

Mary-Jane surprised to learn sour cherries are actually a bit sour.
Nothing beats ripe fruit freshly picked. It blows away the taste of fruit harvested hundreds or thousands of miles away then shipped, trucked, or flown to your local store.
One great source of fresh fruit is “u-pick” operations, several of which surround Barrie. But since such farms are generally located in rural areas where transit does not reach, you need a car to get there & back.
That’s where my high-school friend “Peaceman” Jim Kogelheide comes in, by organizing a free bus trip from London to a local strawberry field, so city residents without car access can take advantage of the flavour, health, and budget benefits of picking their own fruit. Way to go, Jim!
But back here in Barrie, we have other local food initiatives on the go. Last year I helped found FruitShare, a program where we send teams of volunteers to the properties of urban fruit-tree owners to pick all the ripe fruit from their tree. The harvest is split between the owner, the volunteer pickers, and the Barrie Food Bank.
Last year we rescued over 3,000 lbs of fresh, ripe, local, organic fruit from local trees and about 20,000 lbs of other produce was donated, much of it inspired by the enthusiastic media coverage FruitShare received. So of course this year we’re going to do it again, bigger and better!
When we launched last July, we only envisioned the apples and pears that ripen in the fall. The very next day we discovered that sour cherries thrive in Barrie, and several trees were ripe, so picking began immediately! But we also heard of other crops, like currants, gooseberries, and mulberries, we had just missed. So if you have or know of a good set of bushes or canes producing any of those berries, please contact us and perhaps we can pick them this year.
Anyone wishing to register a fruit tree (apple, pear, or plum but also grape vines, nuts, the berries mentioned above, or elderberries ripening in late August) can visit and choose the TreeRegistration form in the “Get Involved” menu. Or you can sign up to pick fruit, fun and healthy for the whole family!
We are also looking for equipment donations, having already received specialized pickers from Bradford Greenhouses Garden Gallery, and baskets, tarps & gloves from Mapleview Canadian Tire. Our top needs right now are collapsible stepladders and materials to build a sturdy off-season storage shed by the Coulter Street community garden, where the City of Barrie will soon be planting the first trees of our community fruit forest.
Remember, we can find the pickers, and we can get the fruit to the people who need it, but you must tell us where that fruit is! If you have a neighbour, friend, relative, or co-worker with fruit we could pick, please show them this article or contact us directly and our coordinator Jenna will follow up. You can email or call 705-715-2255. Whether it’s to pick fruit, register a tree, or provide other assistance, we’d love to hear from you.

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie & Innisfil Examiners as "FruitShare sharing the wealth".
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

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