The idea for my project came directly from the Vancouver Fruit Tree Project, who work with private landowners to harvest abundant fruit from trees on private property, and redistribute it to the community. Volunteers work to pick the fruit and take some home as well.
I’m relatively new to Vernon so I focused my time on doing outreach and connecting with people to collaborate. I found a lot of interest from people who wanted to volunteer as pickers, but finding tree owners proved a bit more challenging. I did targeted flyering, put up posters, and knocked on doors. Many people already had a plan for their fruit, or they didn’t have the right equipment to harvest it. Purchasing and transporting tall ladders was beyond the scope of my project.
Then the fire season hit, and the air quality was consistently poor for several days at a time. I didn’t want to invite people to work outdoors, or bring my toddler out into the smoke for an extended period of time. It was hard to know how long the smoke would last. I decided to pivot my project and purchase three flats of end-of-season cherries to host a community processing gathering. I had five participants come to my home to pit, dry, and can the cherries. Everyone went home with a jar of dehydrated cherries and two jars of canned cherries. Half were donated to local food rescue organization Food-It-Forward. Neighbours got to connect and people got to participate in the process of canning for the first time. The cherry processing gathering proved to be very worthwhile.
I think that in the future to make this model work in my city it would be helpful to connect with others working in food rescue, who have more connections with communities, farmers, and individuals who may have food to offer. I’m still glad that I attempted this small-scale version of the project, because I learned a lot as an individual and I got to know some more of my neighbours in the process.
Some takeaways from the project:
• Working together with people already involved in the work could help to achieve more
• Outreach when you don’t have a lot of existing community connections takes a lot of time and care, but is worthwhile!
• Cultivated fruit trees have good years and bad years like any other crop – this year was very poor for plums, but great for cherries! Over the long-term with a project like this, having a variety of fruit types involved in the project would help to ensure some fruit was available every year.
• Getting together to do an otherwise tedious/repetitive task (pitting cherries) can be so much fun!
Project Leader: Caitlan Read