The Oceanside Gleaning Program helps homeowners pick fruits to be redistributed in the community. (File photo)

The Oceanside Gleaning Program helps homeowners pick fruits to be redistributed in the community. (File photo)

Coombs Farmers Institute program helps homeowners pick fruit from trees

Gleaning program aims to reduce food waste and bear encounters

If you have fruit trees and are unable to harvest them on your own, the Coombs Farmers Institute (CFI) has a program to help.

Last year the CFI launched the Oceanside Gleaning Program, geared toward harvesting fruit trees that bear apples, plums and pears. It connects homeowners unable, or uninterested, in harvesting their fruit with volunteers from CFI and the Arrowsmith Agricultural Association who can do the job.

“We help a lot of older homeowners that have the fruit trees, but they just physically can’t do the work anymore,” said Aura Bell, who is the program co-ordinator, as well as a farmer in the Spider Lake area. “So our volunteers will go in and pick the fruit for the homeowners.”

Harvested fruit is divided three ways between homeowners, volunteers and charities, according to Bell.

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The program’s aims are to prevent food waste, stop fruit trees from being cut down unnecessarily and avoid encounters with bears, who are attracted to fallen fruit.

Even this ‘windfall’ fruit can be used by organizations, such as 4-H clubs, to feed livestock.

Bell said people may have noticed a drop in fruit tree output this year because the wet winter and spring were hard on pollinators such as bees.

The program serves areas that include Bowser, Coombs, Errington, Hilliers, Horne Lake, Lantzville, Nanoose Bay, Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Spider Lake and Whiskey Creek.

For those interested in the program, contact the Coombs Farmers Institute via email at coombsfarmers@gmail.com or visit its Facebook page.

Since 1914, the CFI has worked to improve conditions of rural life, promote the theory and practice of agriculture, arrange the purchase, distribution and sale of commodities and to promote home economics, public health, child welfare, education and better schools.

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