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The fruits of our labours
10:30am Wednesday 8th August 2012 in Columnists
Some of the fruit picking team, Simon Brewster, Erica Rose, Jane Thomas, Eddie Brewster and Paul Brewster
NATALYA WILSON encounters a new environmental group in Kirkbymoorside which is dedicated to preventing wastefulness and encouraging fruitfulness
IT’S official then. The UK economy has dropped back into recession and so now, more than ever, everyone is looking for ways to save a penny or two.
Though salaries have, in many cases, been frozen during the last few years, the cost of living has soared and the totals at the tills are proof that food prices in particular have risen astronomically.
Clearly, when it comes to food there is only so much one can do to trim the budget.
However, there are practical strategies we can all adopt to make a saving or two, such as grow our own vegetables, or, in the case of Kirkby Fruit Pickers, find their own fruit.
Kirkby Fruit Pickers is a new group which has been set up with Kirkbymoorside Environment Group to save fruit which falls from trees from rotting away, and putting it to good use.
“Every year you see fruit falling to the ground and rotting in people’s gardens or in public spaces – either because the owners are unable to pick it or because it is just too much for them to use – it’s such a waste,” said Erica Rose, whose idea it was to start the group.
“At the same time, fruit and fruit products are expensive and are often shipped from far away at great cost to the environment. Fruits are expensive and at the moment, for example, damsons can cost a pound for a pound, but 100 yards away, there’s a purple carpet of fruit underneath a tree, just rotting away.
“I actually thought of this idea years ago, but was too busy working to act on it, but this year I took the idea to Kirkbymoorside Environment Group and everyone seemed to think it was a good idea, so I got the job of making it happen,” added Erica.
Kirkby Fruit Pickers’ aim is threefold: to identify where there are trees going to waste and find out if the owners would like help with picking, or find people who would like to ‘donate’ trees or who know of trees where fruit is going to waste; organise groups of volunteers to pick, sort, grade, pack and transport the fruit when it is ready; and use the fruit productively, for produce or fundraising and other causes.
“We would like to hear from anyone in the Kirkbymoorside area who can help with any of the three aspects of the project – including other community groups or charities who would like to use some fruit or juice for a fundraising idea of their own,” said Erica.
“For instance, on behalf of the Kirkbymoorside Environment Group, I would like to make chutneys and cakes that we can sell. So far I have a list of a dozen or so pickers, as well as one lady who has ‘donated’ her small orchard in Marton, and one or two others who know of likely trees.
“Local knowledge and networking is one of the most important things to us. Kirkbymoorside Environment Group is really useful, as they have the kind of infrastructure and platform needed and people from the group want to join in.”
Erica’s aim is to build up a sizeable register of people who can offer some time in different areas: picking fruit, sifting it, packing and transporting it, so that if someone calls and says there’s a batch of fruit on their lawn that needs clearing, she knows who is available and can call on them to see to it straightaway.
Pickers will receive free fruit or juice, and owners of trees will also benefit because they will get first pick of the crop before Kirkby Fruit Pickers take the excess.
The group also needs lots of boxes, and Erica says that donations would be greatly appreciated.
As for the tools for the job, often fruit will need picking from the tops of trees, as well as the ground, but although there are tools that can be bought, Erica suggests making them from recycled coat hangers.
Erica adds that Kirkby Fruit Pickers is a project that addresses a wide range of concerns to many people by reducing impact on the environment of transporting fruit, encouraging people to eat more fruit, offering healthy and enjoyable physical activity to pickers, supporting local community projects and developing a sense of community.
“If an elderly person living alone has a spare fruit tree that is bothering them because the fruit is going to waste, for example, we could go along and make use of the fruit while providing them with contact with people they know who are local and they feel safe,” said Erica Kirkbymoorside and the area around it was historically an apple-growing area, so Erica says that Kirkby Fruit Pickers has an element of continuing an old tradition.
In playing an active role in this history, she is in contact with the Orchards of Husthwaite Co-operative community orchard project, which was formed in 2009 with the intention of replanting the vanishing orchards in Husthwaite – which has been known for many years as the Orchard Village, due to its history of fruit growing and jam manufacture dating back for three centuries – and using the fruit to make and sell a variety of products.
“We can take apples or pears there and they will give us a bottle of pasteurised juice, which we can then use or sell in exchange for every eight kilograms of fruit,” she said.
“However, I just hope there will be some fruit to pick. The weather has been so bad that the crop is very patchy and I understand that pears and plums are particularly thin this year. Apples are usually the most prolific and hopefully there will be enough and to spare.
“We would also be interested in any other 'glut' crops, such as green tomatoes at the end of the season, which make good chutney,” she added.
For more details, or if you would like to volunteer or ‘donate’ a tree, email Erica at firstname.lastname@example.org