All flourishing is mutual.
-- Robin Wall-Kimmerer
The purpose of Low Hanging Fruit is to add resilience to our island’s food system and decrease food waste. Many property owners on Bowen have fruit and nut trees that do not get harvested due to either lack of time, equipment or sometimes overabundance. LHF brings volunteers together to pick the fruit from these trees so that it can be enjoyed and used on the island.
Throughout the summer, many Bowen Island fruit tree donors were happy to offer pickings of the fruit trees on their properties - 23 harvests in total and from all parts of the island. Now that’s impressive. I then made a shout out to folks who were interested in picking and, in return, receiving some of the gleanings. Many (23) islanders - of all ages - stepped up to the plate and offered their services. Equipped with ladders, extendable fruit pickers, bags and boxes, approximately 400 lbs. of various fruits were picked, including: a number of apple varieties (Transparent, Thompson, Pippin, Duchess of Oldenburg, Sparmac, Mac, Russet, and Liberty); plums (Cherry and Damson); crabapples; grapes (Concord and seedless); quince; and medlar. That’s a lot of fruit! Most of these varieties were sold at the Saturday morning Bowen Island Farmers Market with sales of approximately $600.00. Of that amount, $200.00 goes to the Food Bank and $400.00 is ear-marked for new equipment and support towards the ongoing project. To note, rougher looking fruits (bruise, damaged or “ugly”) went to MeadowBrook Farm/Bowen Cider House for pressing or for animal feed. As well as fruit, a kind local couple offered LHF over 50 of their beautiful blue and purple hydrangea flower stems to sell at our stand at the market to go towards the cause.
In October, we joined Sarah Haxby and her class from BICS to pick (mostly) russet apples at Davies Orchard. Over 100 pounds of these apples went to making delicious pies for sale at the Thanksgiving weekend Farmers Market in support of Bowen Island Heritage Preservation Association. There is a short video created by Phil Gregory on that very pick. Check it out at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SveEOpdtIHk
An interesting story during the early fall was when the fruit pickers and I were gearing up for a really big pick of several varieties of apples in Fernie’s Orchard at Camp Bow Isle. A couple of days before the scheduled harvest I had checked on the crop and they were ready for picking. But on the morning of the harvest, they were all gone!! Every last one of them! Both Jacob Publicover, Executive Director of Camp Bow Isle, and I thought the other had picked them, but in talking we realized it was something else entirely. At first, we thought that maybe “rogue” gleaners had come in and harvested the fruit… but the trees were wiped clean - good, bad and ugly, from the bottom to the top of the tall trees! So probably not people, but what animal/bird would get all that fruit? Deer eat the lower hanging fruit and ones that fall to the ground. And birds, especially crows and ravens, peck at them for a tasty treat. When I asked about this mystery while on a tour of Rileys Cidery, I heard that squirrels can do this overnight. Wow! Now don’t get us wrong, we are happy to share some of the pickings with the animals and birds, but all of them?! Next year we’ll need to be especially vigilant about the timing of our harvest and perhaps attach metal collars on the trees or hang up something (shiny CDs - do they still exist?) to distract and prevent another wipe-out like that.
We all learned a lot this year and are planning for 2023 season. Thanks Bowen Island for joining in on the Low Hanging Fruit project!
LOW HANGING FRUIT COMMUNITY PARTNERS:
You have a property with fruit or nut trees and would be willing to share a portion of their annual harvest.
You are interested in volunteering to pick and pack fruit with other community members... and would like to take a small portion home with you.
Community groups, schools, and other organizations who can make use of fresh, local and organic foods to support the people they work with.
Also - farmers, looking for delicious fallen fruit to feed their animals.
Volunteer fruit pickers with Low Hanging Fruit must be willing to sign-on to project related safety protocols, including COVID protocols.
At right is a short video on best practices with regards to using the 12 foot orchard ladder we use to harvest fruit, some of which is not actually low-hanging.
Professional Agrologist Matthew Ramsay offered several demos and workshops outlining the basic pruning principles of fruit tree pruning with the help of a persimmon tree at Grafton Agricultural Commons, on Bowen Island. He discussed a few of the basic fruit tree forms that pruning seeks to achieve, answered when to prune and a few other "must know" considerations, and also reminded us WHY we prune...
We plan to offer more of these events in the future as there is much, much more to learn about pruning and tree care, and look for opportunities to further your fruit tree care education.
If you are looking for local professionals to provide fruit tree maintenance, please email BIFS and we can put you in touch with those we are connected to.