Barrie’s backyards could be ripe for the picking.

A new FruitShare program is being launched this week, and will use volunteers to pick fruit from residential trees — then distribute it among tree owners, Barrie Food Bank and the pickers themselves.

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins of Living Green Barrie says he’s expecting apples and pears to be sure, but there could also be currants, berries, plums and quince, which is a small pear-type fruit.

He doesn’t know how many city properties have fruit trees, how many people will be needed to pick fruit or even how many will want to be pickers.

But Jacoby-Hawkins says he thinks most of the fruit trees will be found in old sections of Barrie, perhaps the Allandale and Painswick neighbourhoods, and that FruitShare could really help these property owners.

“The problem is people have a whole bunch of fruit at once, it’s too high up to pick, you can’t really get there, then it all falls down and rots, and attracts wasps or racoons or skunks, gets all mucky in your lawnmower and then people eventually might want to cut down the tree,” he said. “So what we’re hoping to do is get rid of that nuisance factor, so that people will keep the trees.

“People would also be encouraged to plant trees, to create some local food resilience, right here in the community, and add to the food security aspect.”

There could also be a tie-in to a local pruning service, to help property owners with their fruit trees

And if there’s a system in place to pick the fruit, perhaps the city could be convinced to plant some trees in parks or on the edge of wooded areas, Jacoby-Hawkins said.

“We’re selling the model of Not Far From The Tree, which is a successful program in Toronto that’s been running for six or seven years,” he said. “That’s where I got the inspiration. I read about that, and I thought ‘wow, I wish that was happening in Barrie’.”

Not Far From The Tree puts Toronto’s abundant fruit to good use by picking and sharing the bounty.

When homeowners can’t keep up with the harvest produced by their tree, they let FruitShare Toronto know and it mobilizes volunteers to pick the bounty.

This simple act can have a profound impact. With a crew of volunteers, it makes good use of healthy food, addresses climate change with hands-on community action and builds community by sharing the urban abundance.

“And it’s very fresh and nutritious, especially eating it right in your yard. You can’t beat that,” said Jacoby-Hawkins.

This year FruitShare Barrie will operate on a trial basis, but first organizers need to tally how many properties will be involved.

“We honestly don’t know yet,” Jacoby-Hawkins said of that number.

“That’s what we’re hoping to find out. It’s just being launched, so we don’t have the data base of potential sites.”

And a team of volunteers needs to be assembled first.

“If we get a half-dozen volunteers and get a dozen properties, that will give a great launch to it,” he said.

Stakeholders in this program include Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit, Barrie Food Bank, Transition Barrie, Living Green Barrie and Barrie city council.


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FruitShare – helping out those in need in Barrie