Having just returned from the last Vancouver Fruit Tree Project fundraising workshop of the season, an apple and pear tree-pruning workshop with fruit tree expert Richard Hallman, it seems timely to reflect on the last few months as we wind down for the winter months.
What a marvelous season 2013 turned out to be! After the big curveball that hit us at the start of the year when we lost our major source of funding, it was so heartening to see everyone pull together and work so hard to make 2013 our second best season ever. 5,341 pounds of fruit harvested over 72 fruit picks!
I would like to extend a huge “thank you” to everyone who volunteered for us this season, from the fruit pickers, the pick leaders, to everyone who helped at our outreach events as well as everyone who came to our season kick-off party, anyone who brought a raffle ticket or made a prize donation. We couldn’t have done it without you! Also, thanks to our tree owners for your continued support and your lovely fruit. All the fruit that is donated to our recipients in our community is hugely appreciated – any pick leader who delivers the fruit at the end of the pick can vouch for that!
I’d also like to thank the board and advisory committee who work really hard behind the scenes to keep things running efficiently. Over half the board was brand new to the project this season, and they all certainly hit the ground running as did our 2013 Season Coordinator, Shannon Lambie. Shannon started with us later in the season than we would have liked to due to our funding situation, but she worked diligently to mean we were able to respond to all but a couple of calls from tree owners.
There were many highlights for me this season. The first picks I did were two massive apple trees where three of us picked for hours in the hot sunshine to end up with nearly 300 pounds of wonderful apples, which we delivered to the Downtown Eastside Womens’ Centre.
Another apple pick soon followed, where a large group of volunteers picked seven ‘Isaac Newton’ apple trees on the roundabout near the Triumf research facility at UBC. These trees are said to descend from the very tree that Sir Isaac was sitting under at ‘that’ famous moment! Reforestation company Brinkman & Associates were kind enough to lend us their pick up truck for part of the season, and that certainly came in very handy for this pick, transporting lots of equipment, people and several boxes of apples which were delivered to the Britannia Centre and Aids Vancouver Grocery programme.
Another pick that stood out for me was one within walking distance of my house! Shannon had put out the call for pick leaders for a grape pick, and when I saw the address was a stones throw from where I lived, I signed up right away. My partner came along, and we were also joined by a volunteer and her daughter to help with the pick. We are one of the few organizations who have volunteer opportunities for children. One of our missions is to build community and promote a sense of neighbourliness, and this pick was a wonderful example of that. The homeowner told us about her years spent as a cookery teacher in Taiwan, and let us taste some wonderful grape jam she had made from the very vine we were picking. We harvested almost 100 pounds of grapes that were then delivered a few blocks away to the Enhanced Living Society.
As we are a small organization, our operating costs each year are very modest, running at approximately $13,000 per year. This is a very small outgoing considering all the great benefits we bring:
– We redirect thousands of pounds of fresh local fruit, free from pesticides that would otherwise rot in the landfill, and instead bring it to those in our community who might not otherwise have access to such nutritious food.
– We help build a sense of community and promote neighbourliness, bringing together people from all walks of life across the city.
– We help educate around the subject of food security and food preservation through our canning workshops and outreach talks in schools and at various events through the harvest season.
We have some grand plans for next year, as 2014 will be our 15th Anniversary! We are also hoping to expand to harvest trees that are on public land, as well as get a pruning social enterprise off the ground to help care for our existing legacy of fruit trees across Vancouver.
While we’re now winding down for the winter, with just a couple of grant applications to get in, watch this space when we start ramping up again next Spring, and keep an eye open for some of our fundraising initiatives next year. We look forward to fruit picking with you again in 2014!
To close, here’s a photo of me from the last pick of the season, and our most unusual fruit picked this year: mini kiwi fruit!
Have a great winter everyone, and see you next year!
Lin Gardiner, Board President, Vancouver Fruit Tree Project