Friday, July 8, 2016

Barrie's Food Forest continues to grow

Regular readers of this column will know that one of Barrie’s greatest good-news stories is FruitShare, the organization I helped found 3 years ago to rescue surplus fruit from the many apple, pear, plumb, and cherry trees growing in the yards of Barrie residents. This initiative sends teams of volunteer pickers to pick the crop and clean up the fallen fruit, then divide the harvest between themselves, the tree owner, and a social agency like the Barrie Food Bank. So far, over 5 tons (10,000 pounds) has been rescued and distributed, over half of that in 2015 alone.
However, you may also have read about our other, long-term project: Barrie’s Food Forest. This isn’t one specific location, but rather an approach to making fresh, local, organic fruit available to anyone without charge, by planting hardy locally-adapted fruit trees in parks and other public lands. Like Barrie’s backyard fruit trees, these public mini-orchards will increase Barrie’s tree canopy and provide ecological services to bees and other pollinators and natural species that share our city. But they will also be available for citizens to help themselves to healthy, tasty fruit, free for the picking.
So far, a dozen trees have already been planted north of downtown, and thanks to a “Carrot Cache” grant from The Big Carrot organic co-op in Toronto, fifty more will be planted this Saturday in Barrie’s west end. Planting locations aren’t publicized until the trees have matured enough to withstand picking, but as the Food Forest matures in coming years, we will be posting and sharing locations with free, ripe fruit around Barrie, including near you!
In recognition of this goal and our work towards it, the Rotary Club of Barrie recently presented FruitShare the Charlie Wilson Environmental Award, given each year in recognition of exceptional promotion and commitment to the environment. Over his six decades as a Rotarian, Charlie spearheaded many environmentally-friendly initiatives, including the planting of trees in public spaces along the lakeshore and streets across Barrie, so this award clearly embodies his spirit. A project of Living Green in partnership with Transition Barrie and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, FruitShare continues to expand the fruit-tree resource for our citizens and ecology and thrives on this kind of community recognition and support.
Speaking of support, there are many ways you can get involved with such a worthy project. Every year, we need people with fruit trees to contact us and let us pick their harvest. We need people to volunteer as pickers, and as “ShareBosses”, our pick supervisors. We also need administrative and financial support. Get in touch if you are interested in any of these forms of involvement, and sign up at
Each of our Food Forest locations represents a naming opportunity for a local business sponsor – would you like to have free fruit growing in your name? If so, then contact us!
And a special, unique opportunity to get out and help comes this Saturday, May 14, from 1 – 4 pm, as we plant our latest 50 fruit trees to expand our Food Forest. If you’d like to come out and help, email and we’ll tell you the exact location. Dress for the weather, including appropriate footwear, and bring your own shovel & bucket, if you can. Together we can grow Barrie’s healthy future!
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Food program taking root"

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is the vice-president of the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation and a founder of FruitShare Barrie.

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