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LETTER: Free fruit, ripe for the picking

To the editor:

Did you know that Castlegar has a huge hidden resource that is barely tapped? The bears know! I am talking about all the fruit that falls and is not used in our area. There were, at one time, at least 60 orchards in our valley. Now, there are no commercial fruit farms here, to my knowledge, but there is a ton of fruit to be gleaned.      
 
I have helped glean cherries in Rossland, tomatoes in Oliver the night before the first expected frost, asparagus in Genelle and garlic near Kettle Falls.
 
These days, I am busy at my phone trying to match up people who want fruit with people have too much fruit. For three years now, I have looked after Castlegar’s Harvest Rescue program. It is a partnership between Bear Aware Castlegar and The Kootenay Food Strategy Society. (KFSS has the community garden as well) Bear Aware would like to see the fruit picked as it is an attractant which brings animals to town. KFSS would like to see people, rather than bears, eating this nutritious, local and totally free produce.
 
I have had more than a dozen calls just since this past weekend. I ask what fruit the homeowner has, if they want any themselves, if we need ladders and when we can come. I call prospective pickers and suggest that the sharing arrangements are between them and the owner. We used to follow Nelson’s rule of thirds; one third for the owner, a third for the picker and a third for the community. In reality, most owners simply want the fruit gone and it is hard to give away fresh fruit this time of the year. I also ask pickers to bring along a rake and clean up the dropped compost under the trees as a thank you and also as an example of a good, clean yard.
 
I know there must be people who would like the sweet benefits of a tree of fresh fruit. I am sure there are people who could make juice, jams, or fruit leather.
 
Perhaps they don’t know about Harvest Rescue. I used to have more than 40 pickers, but this year, the same families are picking over and over. I know they share with family and friends, but there is still a lot of fruit. Pears are almost finished, but that brings us to the apples, plums and grapes. Help! I am Betty at 250-365-0374. Call me, and I will try my best to fill those needs.
 
Regards,
Betty Offin
Castlegar Harvest Rescue Program