Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Start a Harvest Sharing Organization

I recently had the opportunity to say a few words in our community about the value of starting a local harvest sharing organization. It is such a fantastic way to preserve fruit producing trees and shrubs in a community. What follows is some of what I had to say:
Harvest sharing is the idea of linking up people with unwanted fruit trees or berry patches or even extra garden harvests with those who want of it via a fruit sharing organization. It works something like this: a homeowner would register and 'donate' their fruit tree to a harvest sharing organization for the season. Volunteers would come to pick the fruit. A portion of the harvest would go back to the home owner (if they wanted it), a portion of the harvest would go to the volunteers and a portion of the harvest would get donated to the local food bank, soup kitchen or other organization that had need of it. Essentially, harvest sharing is about rescuing and redistributing food.
In the last few years, the idea of harvest sharing has gained a lot of interest and organizations are popping up all over Canada. This past year, an organization called Fruit for Thought started in Regina. Their first season of picking brought in over 3000 lbs of apples from 30 trees! An organization in Toronto called Not Far From the Tree, which has been active for a few years now, harvested almost 20,000 lbs of fruit from just over 200 trees in 2010. In both instances, they received more fruit tree 'donations' than they had volunteers to pick.
In walking through my own neighbourhood, I've noticed that there are a lot of apple trees that go unpicked every year. It's really hard to see that perfect fruit go to waste, especially when there are people in our community that do not get enough to eat.
Harvest sharing is also a great way to help out the elderly who have fruit trees but no longer have the desire to climb up a ladder or to bend down to pick up what may have fallen on the ground. Or perhaps they have garden space that is sitting empty that they would like to see maintained. Harvest sharing organizations are a great way to keep food producing spaces in production.

Apples grow abundantly in our climate, and yet, in Canada, for every apple we export, we import five. The numbers are even worse for pears. In Canada, we import many foods that our climate is capable of growing. But, in the case of fruit trees, that produce is being provided to us year after year for very little effort. From a food security standpoint, harvest sharing organizations can help us change these numbers - on a local level at least - for the better.
Harvest sharing is such a win-win situation because it fills several needs and takes advantage of an underutilized local resource. If you're thinking about starting a harvest sharing organization in your community, take a look at the following established groups for some ideas on how to go about it:

Harvest Sharing Organizations in Canada
Toronto: Not Far from the Tree 
Winnipeg: Fruit Share Manitoba
Regina: Fruit for Thought
Saskatoon: Out of Your Tree Saskatoon
Calgary: Calgary Harvest
Edmonton: Operation Fruit Rescue
Vancouver: Vancouver Fruit Tree Project Society
Victoria: Life Cycles Fruit Tree Project

If you know of more Canadian harvest sharing organizations, please leave their contact information in the comment section so I can add them to the list!

Linked to Real Food Wednesday, WFMW, Simple Lives Thursday, Real Food Friday, Living Well, Freaky Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Gallery of Favorites, Barn Hop.


Anonymous said...

Isn't this the best idea? I love it! Living 1 hour out of Victoria, we too have many people involved in picking/sharing and distributing fruit and vegetables. What is not to love? Thanks for sharing!

Sheena Cucina said...

Thanks for this information! I will see if there is anything similar in my area :)

Shanon Hilton said...

Inag - I couldn't agree more! It is such a wonderful idea!

Sheena Cucina - Oh, I hope there is! Do let me know. :)