News / Toronto

Toronto tree-harvesting bears fruits for volunteers, residents

Not Far From the Tree organizes volunteers to pick fruit from trees and divides the bounty among homeowners, volunteers and people in need.

Members of Not Far From The Tree aim to keep apples like these from becoming snacks for raccoons.

Liz Beddall / Metro

Members of Not Far From The Tree aim to keep apples like these from becoming snacks for raccoons.

Standing in a West Toronto front yard flanked by bags and baskets of berries, Jenna Hossack and her friends attracted quite a few stares from passers-by.

“It’s a very curious sight to have like five people climbing a tree in a yard,” Hossack recalls with a laugh.

The volunteer team was picking service berries, which look a bit like blueberries “ with a little bit more of a red tinge to them as they ripen and get darker,” Hossack said.

The berries are just one part of the city’s untapped fruit crop, which Hossack and her group harvest each year to make sure they don’t end up getting squished underfoot or serving as snacks for raccoons.

The organization Not Far From the Tree harvests crops from the city’s fruit trees and splits the bounty between volunteers, homeowners and local food banks and community kitchens.

Project director Sue Arndt said it was founded in 2008, when organizers noticed fruit falling from trees around the city, and the amount of people who don’t have access to fresh produce.

“A lot of people are challenged keeping up with the harvest of their fruit,” she said.

“A lot of fruit goes wasted.”

About 2,000 volunteers, harvest fruit from 1,800 trees registered by homeowners, within 15 city wards bordered by Jane Street to Victoria Park and up to Eglington.

Arndt said the organization would like to scale the project up to cover more areas of the city.

When they started, there were only a couple similar organizations operating in B.C., but now they have started springing up around Canada.

“It’s really growing,” added Arndt with a laugh.

More on