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Operation Fruit Rescue – Making the Most of Edmonton’s Fruit Harvest November 9, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories, Countdown to P2S.
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Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) is a cool little idea that is growing to be big.  The ‘coles notes’ version of the program is that people who own property with fruit trees or shrubs and don’t want to or cannot harvest the fruit, can connect with people willing and eager to pick it for them.  One third of the harvest from each picking goes to a community agency, such as a youth shelter or a soup kitchen, one third of the harvest goes to the property owner if they would like it, and one third goes home with the people who do the picking.  The fruit harvested includes berries, plums, pears, and apples, most of which would be going to waste if it were not for the program. 

There are a handful of fruit rescue programs across Canada, and each operates independently. In the case of Edmonton, a small group of dedicated volunteers coordinate the program, which has grown steadily since it’s inception. Pickings are organized largely via email, sent out to volunteers who meet at a specified home to pick and/or fan out to pick in the neighborhood.

This year in Edmonton it was the “Year of the Apple”, with many property owners calling for pickers because they couldn’t handle (or believe) the amount of fruit on their apple trees.  However, other fruits such as plums and berries were also picked.  Literally thousands of pounds of fruit was picked this season, and it is unimaginable to think it would have otherwise rotted.

As a first year volunteer my 8 year old daughter and I started out eager to help community agencies and to get some free local fruit.  By the end of the season my daughter and I had gained much more!  We learned about our local neighborhoods, local fruit varieties, how to process apples into everything imaginable, met interesting people, and also hated apples. (We ended up with about 210 pounds of apples.)

Operation Fruit Rescue helps to save valuable fruit, redistributing plenty to those with less, but it also connected us with neighbors and people we don’t otherwise meet, and gets us to work in the outdoors.  It made us appreciate our amazing local variety, our fruit producing yards, and all the preserving others have done for generations.  As a byproduct, we have developed a large stock of apple juice, apple butter, spicy apple chutney, apple-beet chutney, and apple pie filling.  In this case, working towards improving local food security produces alot more then just local food security.   Lastly, we now know that everyone should attend a juicing party at least once!

For more information about Operation Fruit Rescue visit their blog: http://ofre.wordpress.com/.  Here are some  other groups doing this kind of work across Canada:
Calgary Harvest 
Not Far From the Tree in Toronto
Fruit Tree Project in Vancouver

Submitted by: Melissa Scaman, OFRE Volunteer, Edmonton, AB

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