“As concerns over food waste, food security, climate change and sustainability increase, gleaning (harvesting food that would otherwise go to waste) is becoming recognized as a viable practice to decrease climate emissions, increase healthy food access for all and provide a valuable service to farmers and fruit tree owners” says Maurita Prato, Executive Director. “We are heading into our 20th year of the Fruit Tree Program and our 4th year of Farm Gleaning, so now is the time to invite more folks to join us in Sharing the Harvest with our community!”
The LUSH Valley Fruit Tree Program trains and coordinates volunteers who harvest backyard fruit trees across the region. Fruit is then redistributed throughout the community with a fourth going to tree owners, a fourth to volunteers, a fourth to social service clients and a final fourth (that isn’t suitable for fresh eating) to be pressed into juice with proceeds supporting the program. “It’s a fun and creative community project that yields big results” states James McKerricher, Food Access Manager.
Since 2018, our Farm Gleaning Program has used a ‘farm-centric’ approach to support small, local farms exchanging volunteer labour for excess produce. “Our volunteers [last season] were lovely and fun, which brought fresh energy to the farm. When we’re feeling exhausted, fresh energy like that can really increase morale” says Mariette Sluyter of Whitaker Farm. Through partnerships with many Comox Valley Farms including Whitaker, LUSH Valley was awarded the “2020 Partner of the Year” Award through the BC Farmers Markets Association.
In 2020, much of the Farm Gleaning Program’s produce was integrated into our Good Food Box Program, which saw 11,477 units of fresh fruit, veggies and eggs distributed to individuals and families throughout 2020. This was done in collaboration with community partners that include School District 71, Comox Valley Family Services, Wachiay Friendship Center, BC Housing’s Washington Apartments and Comox Valley Affordable Housing Society, among others.
If you are interested in volunteering to pick fruit or work at a farm, please register at https://volunteers.lushvalley.org/make_user. Fruit tree owners interested in utilizing LUSH Valley’s Fruit Tree Program, please contact Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org.