South Okanagan tree fruit project stretches donation

Summerland Asset Development Initiative, has been collecting fruit for more than a decade from backyards or trees set aside by orchardists.

It would be safe to add the tree fruit project to the list of groups that makes your donation stretch a long way.

In their case, though, they’re not after your cash, but your time or fruit trees. The project, organized by the Summerland Asset Development Initiative, has been collecting fruit for more than a decade from backyards or trees set aside by orchardists.

“We thought this would be great for the kids to get out and it brings a positive relationship between them and the community with them out there picking the cherries or whatever fruit it is that people are willing to offer,” said Val Wright, one of the organizers of the project. “We don’t like seeing fruit that is on the ground. There is just too many hungry people that are out there.”

With the cherry season starting soon, Wright is on the lookout for volunteers, both returning and, especially, new recruits.

Some of the fruit goes back to the owner of the tree, and some to the volunteer pickers, but mainly the tree fruit project redistributes the fruit: to the Food Bank, to seniors’ facilities and to schools.

But Wright said they try to do much more with the fruit.

“It’s not just that we pick it and we deliver it,” said Wright, listing off some of the iniatives they support, like working with older community members at the seniors’ centre.

“We do pie making, we do canning, we do drying,” she said, discussing how the youth work with the seniors to preserve the fruit. “What an interchange between the older people and the youth. It’s almost magical to watch.”

That’s just one way to extend the use of the donated fruit. With the help of a local grower, Billy Boerboom of the Apple Barn, they are able to preserve more of the fruit. Boerboom, said Wright, has set aside part of his cold storage facilities for the use of the project, where they store a portion of the fruit earmarked for schools.

“We actually have that fruit going until February. Kids are eating pears and apples in February when there is snow on the ground,” said Wright, who operates a school breakfast program.

It’s a program that has benefits all around, and not just the tangible benefits of the fruit or having your backyard fruit trees cleared.

“When you look at it, we get so much back. It was a way to give back to the community and a way to meet new people,” said Wright. “We’re trying to teach, we are trying to build as many assets as we possibly can. We are trying to get the youth, the parents, to make this a better community that we possibly can and also to share the wealth we have.”

But it doesn’t happen without volunteers. Youth and families are very welcome to join in, said Wright, and of course, anyone with a fruit tree that needs to be picked.

“We really do need more volunteers. And we need people to offer us a tree or two trees. Nothing goes to waste and we make sure the fruit goes to a good home,” said Wright.

To volunteer, donate a fruit tree for harvest or more information call 250-494-9722 or visit www.sadi.ca.

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