Okanagan cherry growers strike deal to end waste

Some of the Okanagan's agricultural wealth will this year be spread around among the region's most needy.

Some of the Okanagan’s agricultural wealth will this year be spread around among the region’s most needy.

The Kelowna Community food bank has struck a deal with cherry farmers, allowing growers to offload fruits they usually can’t get rid of and the food bank to line their larder with what this valley is most famous for.

“What we throw away in the Okanagan is vulgar,” said Patty Lou Bryant, with the Kelowna Community Food bank. She explained that the marketplace, which for cherry growers is largely Asian,  rejects anything that’s imperfect looking, regardless of how it tastes, leaving farmers with tonnes of rotting fruit each year.

It’s a reality that prompted her to apply for, and ultimately receive, canning apparatus  that would give new purpose to those old fruits. This year will be the first time that cherries are donated and the food bank gets to can, and Bryant is expecting a reward of 1000s of cans of fresh fruit for  their clientele.

That’s not the only way the valley’s bounty will be used to help those in need this year, either.

She’s making a call to the gardening  community to come together at the food bank March 25, at 7 p.m.

“We want people who know how to garden, people who like to garden, people who don’t have a place to garden and want to know how to garden,” said Bryant.

Once they’ve convened, they’ll figure out how to take advantage of a few new growing opportunities.

“This year we have a plot of land and now we’re looking at what we can do with water and how accessible it is,” she said.

In the past the food bank has had community groups with land farm for them, but having their own plot they can manage provides some flexibility they’ve not previously been afforded.

“Now we can lay it out and plan for ourselves,” said Bryant.

That’s not to say they wouldn’t welcome community donations. This year they’ll repeat their call for a row to be planted for donations.

Bryant is even asking that those who are in the practice of chicken farming keep the food bank in mind.

“We go through 5,000 eggs a month, but we only give out six at a time, and we’d like to double that,” she said.

For more information on how to help go to the Kelowna Community Food March 25 at 7 p.m.