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Campbell River fruit tree project carries on despite pandemic

More volunteers wanted for Greenways’ initiative
Haylee Beeman, a summer student with Greenways Land Trust, picks a bunch of plums on August 6, 2020. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror.

Under a canopy of lush green fruit trees, two Greenways Land Trust staff members reached up with fruit pickers and gathered plums that would be donated to local groups in need.

Greenways runs a gleaning project every year in Campbell River. Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover or unpicked fruit that either homeowners are unwilling to or unable to deal with and redistributing it to local charities and groups to build food security. Typically, the program is run with volunteers who come and help gather the fruit, however, with the public health order still in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coordinating a group of willing and able volunteers has become more difficult. However, conservation project assistant Katie Lavoie is still working hard to ensure that the fruit of Campbell River has somewhere to go.

“We show up and pick all the fruit we can,” explained Lavoie. “The owners take 25 per cent, the volunteers take 25 per cent and we donate the rest to community partners.”

The program is designed to bring more food security to Campbell River. Since everyone involved gets a chance to bring home a large amount of food, the gleaners ensure that very little of the food grown within the city limits goes to waste.

“People who can’t pick their fruit get to have some,” she said. “We get a lot of older clients, for example. We do have a lot of volunteers who have people in their lives who are food insecure, so the volunteers just donate to their friends and family. And then with the groups, they’re all involved in food security.”

Some of the groups who benefit from the project are the Laichwiltach Family Life Society, who used plums to do canning workshops, the Second Chance Recovery House, who distributes the food to their clients, and the Campbell River Food Bank.

In 2019, the project was launched as a pilot. Volunteers were able to pick nearly 1,500 kg of fresh fruit. This year, Lavoie said they were likely to have a smaller season due to the pandemic, but that she was still looking for volunteers to come and help out. Those interested can sign up at the Greenways website. The call is always open for those who have trees to volunteer as well, with information available online.

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Haylee Beeman (left), a summer student with Greenways Land Trust, and Katie Lavoie, the conservation project assistant get ready to pick fruit in a Campbell River back yard. Photo by Marc Kitteirngham, Campbell River Mirror
Katie Lavoie, Greenways Land Trust conservation project assistant reaches for a plum in a Campbell River backyard. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror