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The Urban Fruit Collective


It all started when I read about Abundance Sheffield. Not being sure what the response would be, I tentatively put a little piece in the Earlsdon Echo, our community newspaper and whoosh! My inbox was full of people who wanted to harvest or who had trees and ‘what a great idea’. Before the end of that first season we’d starred in the local newspaper as the green ‘centrefold’ so to speak, built a social media presence, been interviewed on radio and even put in a little appearance on the BBC West Midlands Today!

So, back to the beginning; late August 2011 saw the Urban Fruit Collective setting off on its first adventure to harvest local fruit.  After a quick ‘hello’ and introductions, we set off for Avril’s house.

In her back garden we found a very well kept tree absolutely dripping with fruit. Mums and dads nervously held the ladders whilst watching their precious off-spring gingerly heading up the little tree to pick the delicious ripe fruit.

Just minutes later we had the fruit, where was it to go? We trundled off to the Earlsdon High Street put up our camping table and donned high-vis chequered aprons outside the Co-op and began giving away the apples. More people came forward to help or with offers of trees. Delighted shoppers helped themselves to a crumble sized portion of apples, all free and all picked within the hour, less than 300m away and given with love. The idea is so simple; we have it, we can’t use it all, so let us share it with our community.

 

Avril had always used her tree to feed her family but is on her own now and has, for a number of years watched the excess fruit drop to the ground and end up on the compost because she simply can’t use it all or give it away.  She is not alone, many of the trees we pick have fed a family for many years and now, thanks to our volunteers, they are once again helping to feed people in Coventry.

Things stepped up, more volunteers, more trees. I contacted the Foodbank in Coventry where Gavin, the dedicated volunteer manager, manically co-ordinates the busiest Foodbank in England. He was very happy to take our apples and we were happy to give them. Oh my! Did we have apples, boxes and boxes of ‘em. It was a bumper year and we had so very many apples and pears that it actually took longer to allocate them destinations than to harvest them. Giving them away became a bit of a headache! Time to develop a network of people to donate to!

There are a large number of trees in the city which bear beautiful fruit. Much of this goes unused while we scamper off to the supermarket to buy the apples and pears flown all the way across the world; I struggle with the logic of this. Now if everyone in our city of 330,000 has an apple or pear everyday with their lunch that amounts to about 12 million pieces of fruit. I haven’t done the calculations yet but… could we plant enough trees in and around our city to cover this? We might at least cover a good proportion. How fresh would that fruit taste? What would the carbon footprint of each piece of fruit be? How much would that reduce carbon emissions? And if we thought about that and considered it important, what else would we grow for ourselves? It is just a thought, maybe one we should all ponder.

September this year saw us return to Avril’s tree, which once again was straining under the weight of the fruit; beautiful, tart, crispy cooking apples. This time the children shimmied up the tree confidently and the adults stood back, supervising at arm’s length, laughing and chatting together in the fading autumn light. Avril bought out cups of tea and we talked about the summer and apples. “Where will you be sending them this year?” Avril inquired. “To the Foodbank” I informed her. “Oh good, I am glad,” she said as she took the tea tray back into the kitchen. There is something about community harvesting which really does connect people. Here’s to next autumn and the harvest. My favourite time of year.

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