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Sharing the Harvest A Guide to Harvesting and Sharing Backyard Fruit for Canada

Table of Contents  Introduction Harvesting Ideas Harvesting Tips Donating Etiquette Where to Donate Benefits of Harvesting & Sharing Fruit

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We welcome you to share this resource with others, but please be considerate and always provide a link and credit to Getty Stewart and Fruit Share. If you would like to add specific information for community to this document (similar to the Winnipeg guide) please email for a Word file that you can edit for your community. Written by Getty Stewart, PHEc

Fruit Share

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There’s something magical about clusters of beautiful, fragrant blossoms broadcasting the arrival of spring. As we take in their sight and smell we think of long, warm and sunny days ahead. Their arrival is a welcomed sight. Only later, when those same branches are bearing ripe, heavy fruit and pollinating bees turn to hoards of angry, drunken wasps does the magnitude of all those blossoms set in. Sometimes, that beautiful bounty turns into a messy burden. But, it doesn’t have to be. Help is available. You just have to ask. A little boy was having difficulty lifting a heavy stone. His father came along just then. Noting the boy's failure, he asked, "Are you using all your strength?" "Yes, I am," the little boy said impatiently. "No, you are not," the father answered. "I am right here just waiting, and you haven't asked me to help you." Author Unknown

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Harvesting Ideas If you aren’t able to harvest your own fruit, here are some creative ideas for getting others to help you and ensure your fruit is put to good use. When given the opportunity, people are happy to help. And, when you add a basket of fruit, they’ll be sure to say YES! 

Host a picking party. Picking is much more fun when there are several people doing it together. Serve some ice tea and a tray of cookies and you’re guaranteed to have a good time. Encourage the group to pick an extra bag for a neighbour down the street who might not be as agile but would appreciate some fresh fruit. It’s a great way to build positive relationships with your neighbours. Call a fruit picking group like Fruit Share to come harvest your fruit for you. These non-profit organizations will send a team of volunteers to pick your fruit. Most share the fruit local food charities. Hire a neighbourhood teenager to harvest your fruit for you. If you don’t know who to call, ask your community centre for a list of neighbourhood babysitters or dog walkers. These keen, young individuals might consider adding fruit picking to their repertoire of services offered. The money you spend will be well worth it! Post a notice at your local garden club, church or community centre stating you have delicious, free fruit available for picking. Put a classified ad in your community paper or online at places like Kijiji or your community Buy and Sell. There are a lot of people who welcome the opportunity to get fresh, local fruit.

Fruit Share

Fruit Picking Groups Picking groups are becoming more common, call a food bank or volunteer centre to see if there’s a group in your community. Here are some groups in Canada that have been operating for several years. Vancouver, BC Fruit Tree Project Victoria, BC Fruit Tree Project Calgary, AB Calgary Harvest Edmonton, AB Operation Fruit Rescue Winnipeg, MB Fruit Share Toronto, ON Not Far From The Tree

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Ask vendors at your local Farmers’ Market if they would be interested in picking your fruit. Those

Ask a local community group to pick your fruit. For example the Boys and Girls Club, Scouts

that sell homemade preserves or fresh produce might be eager to make good use of your fruit.

Canada, Brownies, school groups, etc. Call them and suggest they could donate the fruti to a local food charity or use the fruit for their own fundraising purposes by having a temporary fruit stand.

Call a neighbourhood revival corporation, community garden club or another food group that offers food preserving workshops. These groups may appreciate free fruit for their workshops.

Call a local Hutterite Colony to see if they’d be interested in picking your fruit. A listing of Hutterite Colonies in the prairies can be found at http://www.hutterites.orgunder the Hutterite Directory.

Fruit Share volunteers harvesting apples. Photo by Mike Deal, Winnipeg, MB

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Harvesting Tips If you are able to assemble a picking crew to help harvest your bounty, here are a couple of harvesting tips to consider. 

Before picking, rake up any fruit that may be lying on the ground so that you can keep it separate from the fresh fruit you pick. Fallen fruit is at risk of contamination and should be composted.

Inevitably, some fruit will fall to the ground while you’re picking. This fruit may end up with cracked or bruised skin. Before using this fruit, consider the conditions of the ground it fell on. If you have any reservations, compost it. If you’d like to use this fruit, do it as soon as possible after picking and consider a high heat process to kill any possible bacteria.

Try to pick fruit with the stem attached to extend the storage life of the fruit.

As much as possible, use two hands when harvesting fruit. Use one hand to hold the branch close to the fruit and the other to gently twist and roll the fruit up towards the stem. When using just one hand to “yank” the fruit, you may damage the tree and threaten next year’s crop.

For difficult to reach fruit, use a fruit picker designed for that purpose rather than attempting deathdefying climbing acts.

Bruised fruit will spoil much faster than intact fruit. Keep heavily bruised or broken fruit separate. A rotten apple really does spoil the barrel!

Shaking trees is a technique that should only be used at the very end when all the reachable fruit has been harvested. If you do choose to shake the tree, have a team of people hold a very large bed sheet underneath the tree. It’s fun to see how many they can catch and how many land on their heads! Remember to keep bruised or broken fruit separate and to use it right away.

Place picked fruit in cardboard boxes rather than plastic bags. Boxes will allow better movement of air and extends storage life.

Store fruit in a cool, dark place and check it frequently for signs of spoiling. If you’re planning on sharing your fruit with others it’s best to so as soon as possible.

Remember to have fun! Spread out a picnic blanket and have some snacks to make the harvest enjoyable and memorable.

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Donating Etiquette If you are planning on donating your fruit to a local charity, here is some general food donating etiquette for you to consider. 

Deliver fruit as soon after harvesting as possible.

Call the organization to determine their ability to accept your donation, to determine the exact drop off location and the best time to deliver your fruit. Due to each organization’s unique circumstances, each one has slightly different procedures and capablilities.

Only donate fruit that you would consider eating yourself. Fallen fruit, overly ripe fruit or heavily bruised fruit should be composted, not donated.

Choose clean, dry boxes, cloth bags or containers to transport fruit with as little bruising or bumping as possible.

Fruit should not be washed before donating. It will store better if it does not have moisture on it and organizations will wash it anyway.

Homemade preserves and baked goods should be dated and labeled with ingredient lists. Not all organizations will accept homemade products.

Most provinces have a provincial food donation act that protects food donors from any liability when Delivering apples to a food charity. making donations in good faith. These acts are designed to encourage individuals and organizations to make non-profitable food donations.

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Where to Donate There are many individuals and organizations who would welcome a basket, bag or handful of fresh, local fruit. Here are some to consider: 

Food banks. A food bank is a centralized clearing house which collects food (which would otherwise be wasted) from available sources and distributes it to a number of agencies that feed the hungry. For a listing of food banks in your community visit Food Banks Canada at

Soup kitchens. A soup kitchen is an establishment which offers meals to the needy for free or at very low cost. It may or may not be tied to a religious organization. To find soup kitchens in your community do a web search with this term “community name soup kitchens” or call a Food Bank in your area which may supply some of the food used by local soup kitchens.

Food Programs. Check your community newspapers or call your community development organization to find out what food programs are offered in your neighbourhood that could use fresh produce. It may be a seniors cooking class, a nursery school breakfast program or a preserving workshop offered by a local food group.

Seniors Residences. At Fruit Share we shared a lot of fruit with seniors by simply delivering a box of fresh, crisp fruit to their apartment complex with a note encouraging them to share in the bounty. They welcomed the fruit and the opportunity to recall fond memories and recreate the recipes they grew up with.

Schools, Daycares and Nursery Schools. Kids love experimenting, baking, cooking and exploring new things. Why not offer your fruit to a local school, daycare or nursery school. Teachers and day care workers have great imagination and will come up with creative ways to turn your fruit into a fun, delicious educational experience.

These are just the beginning, use your imagination and talk to your friends and neighbours about who else in your community could benefit from your bounty.

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Benefits of Harvesting & Sharing Fruit Perhaps you’re wondering if you could just leave the fruit and avoid harvesting it all together. It certainly is an option, but here’s a list of reasons why it is better to find a way to harvest your fruit than to let it rot on the tree.  Enjoy delicious, tasty fruit that you grew yourself. Nothing tastes as great as the things you grow yourself.  Join the trend of eating local! Take advantage of free, local, nutritious and organic food (assuming you haven’t used any chemicals).  Try out new recipes and preserving techniques. The sweet/tart combination of our prairie fruit is the envy of many chefs and provides so many delicious options.  Experience the exhilaration of sharing your bounty with others. In Canada, there are over 850,000 people per month (Foodbanks Canada, Hunger Facts 2010) who use food banks. You can help!  Reduce pest problems in your yard. Wasps, squirrels, racoons, mice and other critters are drawn by the smell and taste of over ripe fruit. To avoid run-ins with these critters, harvest your fruit as it ripens.  Reduce the mess of dropped fruit in your yard. Sooner or later that fruit is coming off your tree! To avoid a squishy, gooey mess under your feet, pick it before it drops.  Lighten the load on your fruit trees. Some years can be especially bountiful and tree branches can buckle under the weight of too much fruit. Keep your fruit trees strong and healthy by reducing the stress of too much fruit.  Reduce the chance of worms, maggots or disease in your fruit or trees. Ripe fruit may attract fungus, flies, worms or disease that may overwinter in and around your trees and cause damage to future fruit crops.

Thank you for sharing!

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Sharing the Harvest: Ideas and Benefits for Canadians with Surplus Fruits  

This guide provides useful tips and ideas for harvesting and sharing surplus fruits and veggies in Canada. Get harvesting ideas, donating et...

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