Monday, 29 September 2008

A Project That Will Grow...


Ooooo, I've been sitting on this one for a while :-) Now that there's an official introduction out there, I finally get to show my excitement here! I just wanted to make sure that it was really going to happen, and not let anyone down, including myself ;-)

There are a couple of intersecting spheres of activity and ideas here, so I'll do an old-fashioned narrative to straighten things out. Sit down, grab a coffee.

It started with a walk. Good things often do. Late last summer, that is, in 2007, on the way home from a visit to the park, my friend Katharine, the kids and I stopped to talk to a lady who had a very nice pear tree in her front yard. Not an astounding pear tree, but a very nice, abundant pear tree. We complimented (and by that I mean envied) her tree, she said that the landlord used to pick it but no longer did, and that maybe someone she knew was going to come by and pick it, but if not the pears would fall and. would. go. to. waste.

Arg! The Mennonite part of my heart contracted in pain at the thought of that food going to waste, and more and more I started to notice bags of apples and pears being brought to the curb on Tuesday mornings (garbage day) when Safiya and I would be walking to the East York farmers market to buy...apples and pears.

Surely someone could use these? A couple of years ago I had read about Fallen Fruit, an urban fruit foraging group in L.A. There had to be someone in Toronto doing this. At that time, and by this time it was winter, I couldn't find anyone. In spring I fell in with this wonderful group called the Shoelace Collective, a group dedicated to alleviating the symptoms of poverty in our neighbourhood. Practical stuff, like community lunches and dinners, a workers' referral system, and working with the food bank.

Went to a meeting, brought up the idea of a residential fruit harvest; something walkable/bikeable. Where we could share the harvest with our neighbours, with an emphasis on preserving the harvest so that we could use it for dinners or donate it to the food bank or have a bazaar and sell it or give it away...the list of ideas got big fast :-)

A late summer meeting saw us ready to go, with a name and kind of a plan. I'm really a "huh, I have feet and hands, you have a fruit tree, I know of a kitchen. Maybe people will join in. And...done." kind of gal. So, with a neighbourhood newsletter in the works, we were waiting to go and then I got a very interesting email from someone at Shoelace after the meeting about....duh duh duhnnnn:

not far from the tree

I emailed Laura, the (phenomenal) project coordinator, right away, hoping to talk to her about some tips for us, since clearly they had their act together :-) They looked to be about a year ahead of us in planning and experience. Perfect. She said, let's talk. We met in a coffee shop. The gleam in our eyes was the same kind of gleam, and Laura took a very large chance. And the rest is history, or actually, just the beginning.


We will be the Woodbine Heights Hub of not far from the tree. As each neighbourhood is unique, we retain a similar, but slightly different mandate (ward 21 donates fresh fruit, we'll have an emphasis on preserving) and our own not-for-profit affiliations (Shoelace, in our case), but are under the beautiful, caring, inspired umbrella of not far from the tree.

And I have to say, it gave me goose-bumps when I sat in that first meeting with Laura and we shared the vision of the entire City of Toronto covered; linked, with these hubs. "Can you imagine?" we kept saying...

But as for now, now it's just me and my neighbourhood. 'Cause that's where food security starts. And everything starts with food security.

peace and sweet, fruitful dreams to you, my friends...

12 comments:

shannongerard said...

amazing! I just heard about this organization on sunday from a friend (fran) and thought it so inspiring. now here it is on your blog!

Amy said...

What a great organization! You must be thrilled. I'm going to dream of pear tarts tonight!

Tiff said...

WOW an amazing story. I'm sure your are so excited to get started!

cloth.paper.string said...

oh marnie, this is so very inspiring! bravo to you for helping bring this awesome project to fruition in your neighborhood, and too to the folks at not far from the tree (lovely pictures over there today, by the way...).

may the roots grow deep, the limbs strong, and the fruits sweet -- of the community building as well as of the trees.

two hippos said...

What a wonderful thing to do, best of luck.

martha brown said...

This is a wonderful idea -- I love it!

Marnie said...

thanks everyone for your enthusiasm and well-wishes! wonderful words to remember as we reach out and come together in picking and giving...

and who knows, maybe the seeds of this idea will get planted in other places!

peace

Heather said...

MARNIE!!! Awesome! I just read about this. This is so cool and I am really excited for you!!!

tonya said...

This is pretty fantastic. Good for you all for making it happen.

Things Hand Made said...

What a great idea! We share windfall fruit on freecycle.

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