Apple tree by Marina Khrapova via Unsplash

Toronto is often described as a city of ravines, but it’s also a city of orchards.

Fruit grows abundantly in gardens, parks, schoolyards, commercial properties and unused lots across Toronto. And each year, a group called Not Far From The Tree helps ensure that fruit is picked and shared with hungry people.

Not Far From The Tree connects people who have fruit trees and grapevines on their property with volunteer pickers. A third of each harvest is donated to food banks, community kitchens, supportive housing programs and community health centres. A third goes to the property owner and the remaining third is split between the pickers.

This season’s harvest began with sweet and sour cherries, mulberries and serviceberries (aka saskatoons). Crabapples and apricots are ripening now, and soon peaches, plums, pears, apples and grapes will be harvested too.

In early July, I volunteered as a picker, tackling a mulberry tree with five other volunteers on a hot Sunday afternoon. To pick mulberries, hold a tarp under the tree while someone shakes the branches. The blackberry-like fruit falls like purple hail, staining everything it touches. In one hour, we harvested 12 pounds of mulberries.

That experience, multiplied across the city, has led to over 1,000 pounds of fruit being picked this summer so far. It’s a practical, community-oriented solution to food waste, food insecurity and environmental stewardship in our city.

Want to help? If you have fruit trees or grapevines on your property, or you are interested in joining a picking team, contact Not Far From The Tree to get involved:

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