Extra veggies in your garden? No problem.

Okanagan Fruit Tree Project zeros in on vegetables and nuts

Volunteers from the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project are happy to harvest your unwanted vegetables and donate them to local organizations that serve clients in need.

Although the non-profit group typically picks fruit, it’s reaching out again this year to anyone with extra vegetables to help reduce wastage and get nutritious food to hungry people in the community.

“A lot of garden produce is needlessly going to waste at this time of year because people don’t have the time or ability to harvest or store it,” says project spokesperson Casey Hamilton.

“Our volunteers are happy to come out and pick whatever you can’t use – whether it’s a small backyard plot or a larger market garden – and we’ll go anywhere from Peachland to Lake Country.”

Cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, plums, apples, and grapes were harvested by some 300 volunteers this season. So far, a total of 20,000 lbs of fruit was saved from going to waste in 2014.

The fruit was shared among volunteer pickers and tree owners and donated to the Kelowna and West Kelowna Community Food Banks, the Gospel Mission, the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Centre, the Boys and Girls Club and other charitable groups who then distribute the fruit to seniors, children and families, and individuals in need, either directly or through educational and recreational programs.

The project was started in 2012 by a group of citizens concerned about food security who realized too much of the Valley’s abundant produce goes to waste.

In the first two years of its operation, the project picked 23,000 pounds of backyard fruit and vegetables throughout the Central Okanagan and is on track to reaching its goal of an additional 25,000 lbs this season.

“The growth and response from the community is incredible,” says Ailsa Beischer, the project coordinator, “and we’re looking to continue with this momentum throughout October as colder months can often mean more difficult months for those already struggling to put food on the table.”

To arrange for volunteers to harvest your vegetables or nuts, please contact the project coordinator, Ailsa, at 778-214-5664 or okanaganfruittree@gmail.com.

For more information, visit www.fruittreeproject.com or “Like” the project on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OkanaganFruitTreeProject.