Fruit tree initiative feeds local food banks


Posted by admin | Posted in News | Posted on 11-08-2010

From the North Shore Outlook

A plum job - Tricia Edgar of the North Shore Fruit Tree Project checks her harvested. Greg Hoekstra photo

Published: August 11, 2010 11:00 AM
Updated: August 11, 2010 11:24 AM

Maria Spitale-Leisk


There are thousands of pounds of fruit falling from North Shore fruit trees each year that is either going to waste or feeding problem bears, instead of providing nourishment to local families who can’t afford to buy fresh produce.

Volunteers with the North Shore Fruit Tree Project know summer’s bounty is out there and have pledged to make it easy on the homeowner to donate the fruits of their labour.

“They just need to call us and we will come and pick it for them,” said Tricia Edgar, communications coordinator with the NSFTP.

In turn, the volunteers will then bring the apples, plums and other fruit they pick to North Shore Lookout Shelter, North Shore Crisis Services Society, and Harvest House – all of which provide groceries for North Shore residents in need.

This is the first season for the NSFTP which is funded through community grants from the City and District of North Van, as well as Vancouver Coastal Health.

North Van resident Tom Walker gave life to the project, using his master’s degree from SFU in urban studies to foster ideas around sustainable communities and food security.

“I would come across all these trees (on the North Shore) that were sagging with fruit,” he said. “I thought ‘How tragic it is that all this fruit is just sitting there’.”

Walker also drew inspiration from the well-established Vancouver Fruit Tree Project, which last year alone collected 7,300 pounds of fruit and distributed it to 15 community organizations including daycares, community kitchens, and seniors’ centres.

The City of North Van is teeming with fruit trees, said Walker, who explained how the area was at one time home to many orchards.

“People don’t think of the North Shore as having fertile ground,” he said. “In Upper Lonsdale around 29th (street) there was one (orchard) that was a full city block.”

There is also a grove of apple trees near the sixth hole of the Gleneagles golf course in West Van that was once part of larger orchard used by turn-of-last-century North Vancouver hotel owner Peter Larson to help feed his business.

Wasted food isn’t the issue that the fallen fruit presents in the heavily-wooded district municipalities of North and West Vancouver. The apples and other fruit are considered attractants in areas where people co-exist with bears.

“It’s (fruit) a yummy-smelling fermenting thing to them,” said Edgar.

Walker adds that local residents have even gone to great lengths including chopping down their fruit trees, just to avoid contact with bears. “They can’t manage their trees anymore and they don’t want bears in their backyard,” he said. “So they cut them down.”

The NSFTP’s first two picks yielded 170 pounds of apples and yellow plums. Walker said the goal is to eventually have a collecting schedule where harvests happen each week. Local fruit tree owners also have the option of keeping one quarter of the fruit that is collected.

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