Cowichan Green Community calls on the community every year to share their surplus in a special program called FruitSave.
It’s all about collecting fruit that no one is using and utilizing it for community benefit. In other words, gleaning.
“The FruitSave Project…organizes volunteers to harvest backyard fruit that would otherwise go to waste,” the CGC says. “This naturally grown fruit is shared between the homeowner, the pickers, the Valley’s many emergency food providers, and CGC’s programs, such as our cooking classes.”
They ask Cowichan Valley residents who are interested in volunteering or who might have a tree that needs picking to contact them, so the job can get done in good time.
The idea of this special harvest is to boost food security since, “95 per cent of the food we eat on Vancouver Island is brought in by ferry, often after travelling thousands of kilometers, and yet we have one of the finest climates for growing food in Canada. Backyard fruit trees in the Valley offer tonnes of nutritious food every year, but much of it falls to the ground uneaten. Now there is a way to get this fruit to those who need it most, and to learn how easy it can be to feed ourselves with beautiful, wholesome, Cowichan-grown food,” the CGC says.
There are many good things shared along with the food.
Homeowners get their fruit trees picked and windfall apples gathered for free and they are left with one-third of the harvest. This not only leads to cleaner properties but also keeps hungry bears out of neighbourhoods. Wildlife can be very smart about finding where fruit is going unpicked and may decide to go after garbage cans, too, as the BearSmart program tells Valley residents every fall.
In addition, folks participating in FruitSave get the satisfaction of knowing that their fruit is being enjoyed by many people.
Volunteer harvesters also benefit. They get outdoor exercise, can work with a friend, or meet a new one, and then take home one third of the fruit, if they wish.
The FruitSave Project supports many organizations, such as Cowichan Valley Basket Society, Community Options Society, Cowichan Independent Living, and Hiiye’yu Lelum House of Friendship.
But, according to Madelaine Macleod, CGC administrator, “It [FruitSave harvesting] has been really slow this year. We didn’t have the massive amount of fruit we did last year. From Deb’s notes (Debra Cabula, FruitSave coordinator), we did eight or 10 tree picks. And we had 20 people who volunteered to pick. We did not necessarily use them all.
“Because the way the crop worked this year, we didn’t have as much fruit as we would normally. But usually we get all kinds: apples, plums, cherries, nuts. Sometimes there are peaches or grapes as well. The apples last well into November. But this year the apples dropped before they were ripe. The ones that end up on the ground are donated to farmers to feed their livestock. Because the cherries came up so fast, they were decimated by the birds unfortunately, so the picks we had were very, very small.”
However, 2016 was FruitSave’s biggest year ever.
“We harvested over 15,000 pounds of fruit. We donated about a third of that, 6,300 pounds. They did 20 picks, about 400 hours of harvesting. There was 250 pounds picked off one tree last year. Nobody’s seen anything like it,” Macleod said.
If you feel like helping the program, you can register your fruit tree, or sign up as a harvester. You can even donate items like ladders, picking poles, pails, or even some time with your truck.