Donate the ripe fruit off your trees

The fruit tree in your yard that never seems to be picked clean each summer can have a new purpose in life.

The fruit tree in your yard that never seems to be picked clean each summer can have a new purpose in life through the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project.

Contact the Fruit Tree Project and their team of volunteers will come and pick the fruit from your tree, dividing the spoils of their labour between you, the Lake Country Food Bank and the Fruit Tree Project. The result is a healthy tree and plenty of happy people eating your fresh fruit.

The Fruit Tree Project began in 2011 as an offshoot of the Okanagan Food Policy Council. The concept for the Fruit Tree Project is modeled on a similar successful program in the Lower Mainland.

It is straightforward: Homeowners with established fruit trees and no desire to utilize their fruit offer their produce to the Fruit Tree Project.  In return, the project organizes volunteer picking teams and then distributes the fruit.

The tree owner may choose to take a portion of the picked fruit with the remainder being divided between a local Food Bank and the Fruit Tree Project.

The Fruit Tree Project uses its portion of the fruit for processing into jams and other fruit products for retail sale. These products become a primary source of funding for the project to continue.

Spokesperson Christina Grieve says the Fruit Tree Project is just getting off the ground here and they are looking for people in Lake Country to donate their trees.

You can call 778-214-5664 to place your tree on the list to be picked, or visit www.cofruittreeproject.com.

“It doesn’t matter what type of tree it is, the yield, or fruit, simply call us to register the tree and then let us know when the fruit is ripe and ready to be picked,” explained Grieve.

After those two simple phone calls, the Fruit Tree Project will take care of the rest, including bringing the equipment.

The program is so young, they are looking for summer-long or permanent equipment donations for volunteers to use. If you have an unused orchard ladder in your garage they would love to hear from you.

The Fruit Tree Project is writing applications for grants from various sources, but the program is designed to operate on a shoestring budget.  The project has access to the kitchens at George Elliott School to process the fruit into delicious jams and canned goods for sale at the Farmer’s Market later this year.  “We won’t be selling fresh fruit,” Grieve said.

Donations of canning jars and canning expertise are also welcome as the Fruit Tree Project looks to move ahead.

Ultimately the project is about getting fresh fruit to people who might not otherwise enjoy in season, local produce. The bulk of the picked produce will go directly to the Lake Country Food Bank.

Grieve says there is no tree too large or small for volunteers to come and pick. The goal is to put unwanted fruit into the food system for local residents. “Ultimately we are hoping for more fruit than we can pick.  We’ll go to the trees and trust people that the fruit is there, whether it is a small tree or a big tree.”

Call 778-214-5664 to volunteer your tree, donate picking equipment or canning supplies.