The first time I wrote about Not Far From the Tree was their first year, in 2008. I managed to get on one fruit pick that year. In 2009 I had a bike accident that prevented me from doing any fruit picks and last year we were out of the city for 3 months of the summer. Since I healed up from my surgery, about mid-August, I’ve been keeping my eye out for fruit picks on this side of the city but every time I get an invitation, I click on the “Attend” button and I’m too late, they’re already full. This isn’t really that surprising since I believe there are only 5 volunteers (plus a supreme gleaner) on every pick, and there are many volunteers. And then last week I managed to get on one! And it was right in my neighbourhood. So Friday morning my 6 year old and hopped on our bikes and rode over to a house about 6 blocks away and got set to help glean a local apple tree.
You start the pick by cleaning up all of the grounders which helps by making the ground more walkable (there were a lot of grounders – the tree owner told us that if we’d been there 3 days before we would have had many more to pick), it helped clear out the wasps feeding on the rotting grounders, and helped clear any possible bad bacteria (e.g. e.coli) that might be in the rotting fruit on the ground so that we can use any windfall (the fruit that we attempt to pick but it lands on the ground instead of in the picking bag on the end of the pole). We put them in bins and leaf bags (and at the end, the tree owner dumped them back on the ground, as they make great compost. This was a first for our supreme gleaner, as all other tree owners want them taken away). The tree was, unfortunately, too tall for my son to help with, but he helped out by weighing the bounty as the bags were filled. There were two guys there taking still photos who are making a documentary on community organizations there, so we’ll post a link once that gets posted online.
The volunteer pick is a great way to spend a couple of hours. The brilliant weather (sunny and 23C in October) helped a lot, but the people are interesting and there’s a lot to be said for labour in the fresh air. At the end, the fruit is weighed (except the windfall, as it’s bruise or broken – we took a few home to add to our green smoothie right away) and 1/3 goes to food banks, 1/3 is divided between the volunteers, and 1/3 goes to the owner (but he only wanted a handful as he’s been picking them as they ripen). We took about 5 or 7 pounds of apples home, and that night we had apple pie. I have to make up some sauce and maybe some apple cheddar muffins with the rest. Yum!
If you have a fruit that goes unpicked in your Toronto yard (even crab apples, as they are made into jelly), you can register your fruit tree with them to get on their list and have it gleaned for you at harvest time. For more information on what they do, there is a great little 3 minute video on their website.