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Did you ever notice how many fruit trees are in your neighborhood? Have you ever picked your own fruit? The opportunity may be closer than you think! 

photo of apples on the groundIn Toronto, there is a thriving organization called Not Far From The Tree. This fruit picking project was founded by Laura Reinsborough in 2008. She had realized that there were so many fruit trees in the city that a lot of fruit just dropped to the ground and was wasted. She came up with the idea of creating an organization that would help use and share these resources, and named it Not Far From The Tree.

Every year, the Not Far from the Tree team organizes volunteers to help pick and share fruit for those tree-owners who cannot keep up with the harvest. They also hold activities, such as a cider festival to celebrate the harvest, and offer workshops so people can learn about caring and maintaining the trees. 

The organization calls it a “win-win-win” program, with the harvest shared three ways. The first 1/3 goes to the tree-owners. Not only do the tree-owners get their fruit picked for them, but they can also learn about resources and tools to take care of their trees better. In the future, Not Far From The Tree hopes to provide more services for tree-owners, such as assisting in planting trees. 

The second win is for volunteers. The second 1/3 of the harvest is shared among them, and they also receive training in how to pick fruit correctly and safely. Volunteers often become friends and have a lot of fun when involved in the activities. The program is a good way of engaging people in the community and helps to build a strong sense of community. 

The last but not least win is for partner agencies. The team contacts agencies who need fruit, such as the local food bank, shelters, and community kitchens. They deliver the third portion of the harvest to them by bicycle. The organization is also working on a fourth “win” by addressing the more fundamental issues of food security and poverty, and helping build healthy and sustainable communities. 

Not Far From The Tree is dedicated to continually improving their program. The team reviews the lessons of the past, program data and feed-back from volunteers and partner organizations to build constructively on their strengths. 

volunteers picking pearsNot Far From the Tree has been in operation now for just over a decade. Over the past ten years, the team recruited 2,220 volunteers, and harvested 150,894 pounds of fruit from 2,442 fruit trees. 

This year’s harvest season is almost here! The organization is creating new partnerships, becoming more accessible, and is developing new activities to meet the specific needs of different communities. For example, they are planning some workshops in Regent Park, a unique community in the east of Toronto. The team will work with the community to organize a fruit tree tour, fruit picks and workshops. This will be an excellent chance for residents in one community to explore and learn together. The organization is also planning to provide more options and opportunities for fruit tree care, education for students and schools, and plant trees for future enjoyment. What's more, a festival for celebrating harvest called "City Cider" will take place at Spadina Museum on Sunday, September 16th. 

If you are interested in this project, you can get more information from their website or subscribe to their newsletters. They are looking for volunteer leaders (Supreme Gleaners) and volunteers. If you have fruit trees and would like to know more, or if you want to get your hands dirty, they would love to hear from you! 

by Peiyuan Zhu: July 2018