berries-sortedIt’s one of my favourite times of the year – picking season! Barrie is blessed to be surrounded with you-pick farms
where families can gather fruit and vegetables in a natural setting.

But a few years ago, I dreamt that we could pick fruit without even having to leave the city. FruitShare Barrie is the realization of that dream, and we are gearing up for our third season of rescuing and sharing the fruits nature provides right in our own backy
ards.

In the previous two years, we picked the majority of our fruit in September and October: apples and pears of many varieties, some grapes, and a few plums. But there is a wider variety of tasty food growing around us, and this year we hope to expand our operations to include a number of local berry crops ripening in the coming weeks, to start gathering and sharing that much sooner.

Two years ago we were lucky enough to catch a bumper crop of sour cherries, and we are sure there are more cherries out there. If you know of any, please tell us! We are also on the lookout for various berries which thrive in our local climate. As a special treat, this year we are going to make a go at harvesting a native crop: serviceberries, also known as Saskatoon berries, or by many other names. While the bush we planted in my front yard seems not to produce much, luckily Barrie’s horticulturalists have been planting serviceberry bushes in parks and public greenspaces around the city as an ornamental shrub, so we’re hoping that will provide our first bumper crop. But if you have these berries in your yard, or mulberries or elderberries that are producing, we’d love to come and pick them for you and share them between you, us, and Barrie’s hungry.

One of the key elements of our program is to help those facing challenges in obtaining healthy, affordable food. So when FruitShare rescues fruit, we leave up to a third with the owner, take up to a third for the volunteer pickers, and then donate what’s left (usually more than half) to the Barrie Food Bank or other social agencies for free distribution. In each of the past two years, over a ton of fruit was shared this way. This distribution structure not only puts more fresh healthy food into the system, it also allows people to harvest directly to their own tables.

And new this year, we are hoping to better localize FruitShare Barrie by finding local business sponsors. The newspapers, radio, and TV all love to tell FruitShare’s success stories, and we’d love to tell them how our operations are funded by the generous support of YOUR-NAME-HERE!

So as the 2015 FruitSharing begins, step up and take your part! If you have a fruit tree or berry bush we can pick, visit FruitShareBarrie.ca to register. If you’d like to come out and pick fruit, you can also enlist as a volunteer there. (We have other organizational volunteer opportunities, too.) If you know someone with a fruit tree, have them contact us, or you can email FruitShare.Barrie@gmail.com or call 705-715-2255 and we’ll follow up. And if you are a supportive local business willing to sponsor a very worthy cause, please get in touch with us!

 

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as “Picking season looks good for FruitShare Barrie

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

It’s time to bury Barrie in berries