Welcome to the 2020 season of LUSH Valley’s Fruit Tree and Farm Gleaning program. This is the latest update regarding upcoming fruit tree picks and volunteer farm work opportunities.

If you are new to these programs, welcome! We hope that you’ll be able to find a satisfying volunteer experience with LUSH Valley this summer. If you are joining LUSH for another season, welcome back! We are always pleased to see volunteers returning for multiple seasons. If you aren’t able to volunteer with LUSH this season, I’m sorry to see you go. Please click here to adjust the settings on your volunteer profile or respond with “unsubscribe please.”

INTRODUCTION – BACKGROUND

The Fruit Tree and Farm Gleaning programs were born out of a need to better utilize and distribute the abundance of tree fruits and farm vegetables that we have available to us here in the Comox Valley. These programs promote food security in the Valley by supporting local farms and diverting fruits and vegetables that might otherwise go to waste. Additionally, the programs encourage food literacy and self-sufficiency by allowing greater access to local produce. The harvests from both of these programs are distributed through a robust network of community partners including School District 71, First Nations groups, CV Transition Society, CV Family Services, and many others.

FRUIT TREE PROGRAM – Overview

The Fruit Tree program works with hundreds of LUSH volunteers to pick and redistribute thousands of pounds of fresh fruit from backyards and hobby orchards throughout the Comox Valley every year. The harvest is split equitably between homeowners, volunteers, and LUSH programming and community partners. There is no minimum number of shifts for Fruit Tree program volunteers.

– The fruit is picked from Courtenay, Comox, Cumberland, and the outlying regions of Merville, Black Creek, Royston, and Union Bay.
– You are responsible for your own transportation to and from the picking locations. Picks typically last 2 hours.
– Please plan on staying for the entire 2 hours. Most of our picks occur on residential lots, and property owners are often present on site.

-Please be respectful of the property owners and neighbours and remember that we are all ambassadors for the program when we are on a pick.

What to bring

– A signed copy of your waiver (to be sent out prior to your first volunteer placement) before the first pick
– Your own boxes or bags for taking fruit home
– Any other helpful equipment you may have (step ladders, pole pickers, etc.)
– Water and snacks
– Closed-toe shoes and weather-appropriate clothing for working in trees (your clothes may get a bit dirty)

If you don’t fancy spending the afternoon up an orchard ladder, there are many other ways to get involved with the program. These include sorting fruit, distributing fruit, and picking fruit from ground level. Please contact James if you’d like to discuss your options.

How to sign up for a fruit tree pick

Watch for the weekly email update:  All picks are scheduled via email. Once a week you will receive an email outlining the picks for the week. This email will include information about the neighbourhood and timing for the pick, but will not include specific addresses.

Express your interest: If you are interested in any of the picks outlined in the email update, reply to the email, listing the specific picks you wish to sign up for. If you would like to bring family members along, please include the total number of adults and children in your group. There is no need to respond if you are not available for any of the picks.

Receive confirmation: Picks are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are assigned one of the picks you have expressed interest in, you will receive a confirmation email with the address. If a pick is full, I will do my best to keep you updated.

FARM GLEANING PROGRAM – Overview

In 2018 LUSH Valley piloted a successful Farm Gleaning program. The program now supports dozens of local farms by providing dedicated volunteer labour and creating additional markets for their produce. Products from the Farm Gleaning program are distributed through the same network of community partners as the Fruit Tree program. Volunteers can participate by volunteering for work parties or by completing a farm placement. Tasks vary widely depending on the farm’s needs and the skill set of the volunteer, but may include harvesting, weeding, transplanting, and trellising.

Required skillset: No specific skills or background are needed, just a willingness to listen to the directions of your farm host. Keep in mind that farming is hard work and you’ll likely get dirty.

What to bring

– A signed copy of your waiver (to be sent out prior to your first volunteer placement) before the first work party
– Your own boxes or bags for taking produce home
– Gloves, any favourite gardening hand tools you may have
– Water and snacks
– Closed-toe shoes and weather-appropriate clothing for working on farms (your clothes will likely get dirty)

FARM WORK PARTIES

Announcements regarding farm work parties are included in the weekly email update (the same email that outlines upcoming fruit tree picks). To sign up, please follow the same steps outlined for the fruit tree pick. There is a no minimum number of shifts for farm work parties.

FARM PLACEMENT

Farm placements pairs dedicated volunteers with participating farms. This is an ongoing and more involved volunteer placement, which can be a great learning opportunity for volunteers while providing a hugely valuable service for farms. The placement requires you to be able to volunteer for one 2-hour placement every week starting July 1 through to September. (It’s OK to take a week or two off for a vacation.)
If you’re interested, please email a brief note to fruit@lushvalley.org outlining why you feel that you would be a good fit for this volunteer opportunity, and your availability through the season.

COVID-19 PROTOCOLS

–  Do not register for a pick, or come to a pick, if you are feeling ill.

– LUSH Valley will supply cleaned and disinfected picking bags for volunteers to use for the duration of the pick, but volunteers will be required to provide their own bag or box for bringing home their share of the pick
– All harvest ladders will be sterilized between picks. Unfortunately, picking poles are no longer allowed to be shared between harvest volunteers. This useful tool is relatively inexpensive and available locally. I recommend considering one, especially if you are not comfortable with ladders.
– Please ensure that you maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from anyone who isn’t in your COVID pod during the pick.
– A hand sanitation station will be made available to all volunteers at every pick.
– I’m looking forward to a bountiful season with you, please feel free to reach out with any comments or questions – though note that I may be delayed in responding to matters that aren’t directly relevant to these programs.

Thanks! James McKerricher
Local Food Access Manager