Human-wildlife interactions in the Campbell River area result in numerous bears being put down every year.
The rising cost of living is putting pressure on many local families to choose between eating healthy or covering the expenses of other basic needs.
Only around 40 per cent of B.C. adults eat enough fruits and vegetables, according to Healthy Families BC, the provincial health-promotion plan tasked with improving the health of British Columbians.
These are three of the types of issues that a new program being piloted by Greenways Land Trust will be attempting to address.
“Fruit tree projects exist in lots of communities,” according to Lynnette Hornung, community engagement coordinator for Greenways, who is coordinating the Campbell River pilot. “They connect tree owners who either can’t harvest the fruit from their trees or don’t want to with a group of volunteers who will come harvest the fruit and then split it up. The homeowners get some, the volunteers get a portion and community organizations get a portion, as well.”
There’s a lot of fruit being wasted in the community, Hornung says, “and as an environmental organization, especially here in Campbell River, one concern we have is bears. When bears get into rotting fruit that falls on the ground, there’s increased human/bear interaction and many, many bears throughout the province end up getting euthanized because of those interactions, so this is a way to help lower those numbers, we hope.”
Well why don’t people just harvest their fruit? Well, it might not be that they’re just lazy.
“It’s possible they can’t,” Hornung says. “Aging homeowners might not be able to safely harvest their fruit, or something comes up in life and you have to be away for a month and that’s when the fruit is ripe. There are lots of different possible scenarios where this type of program could be beneficial.”
And in a “social responsibility” context, Hornung says, by distributing the previously-unharvested fruit, the program will do some good in addressing the fact that “housing pressures compound the impact of rising food costs, making healthy eating unaffordable for many in our city,” as the average Campbell River home price has risen 43 per cent over the past two years and rental vacancies hover around 0.5 per cent.
While a ton of the fruit that grows in Campbell River grows on bushes, such as many berries, or out of the ground, such as rhubarb, Hornung says, “we’ll be focusing this program on trees, because that’s a little more difficult for people to harvest. We’ve got cherries, we’ve got apples, pears, plums. And so much of it is going to waste.”
Right now they’re gathering a type of inventory of the community through a form that can be filled out on their website at greenwaystrust.ca/food-security where people can register their tree(s).
“We’re looking for how many trees people have, what kind of trees they are, how tall are they, how much fruit do you normally expect from them – is it 20 pounds of cherries or 200 pounds of apples? Then we’ll get in touch with them and organize a time when we can being some volunteers to do a harvest.”
Part of what they’ll be testing out as part of the project is whether they can integrate a “cost-recovery” aspect, as well, to make the program sustainable and not as dependent on grants, by selling some of the fruit – or juice made from it – so the program can eventually pay for itself. The pilot project has received grants from the Campbell River Community Foundation and Island Health, but Hornung says “funding seems to be a continual challenge for these types of projects. It takes at least a little bit of money to keep in place the kind of coordination capacity these projects need.”
Anyone interested in registering as a volunteer picker – in exchange for some of the fruits of their labour – or a community organization that could benefit from the program can contact Hornung at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the office at 250-287-3785.