About Calgary Harvest, and Why Is It Needed?
Calgary Harvest is a fruit gleaning project that connects interests citizens in the Calgary area with landowners who are generating surplus fruit on their properties and who would like to see it used. Calgary Harvest maintains a registry of fruit trees within the city, and during the harvest season, community fruit-picking events are scheduled for everyone interested in harvesting fresh local fruit.
Our organization exists to play a role in helping create a local food system and sustainability in Calgary, through the promotion and celebration of Calgary’s local fruit supply. It does this by engaging with various members of the local food system to increase awareness of local fruit availability, and by creating opportunities for harvesting quality surplus fruit.
Calgary Harvest is an important part in the local food economy in Calgary, and since its humble inception in 2009, it has created hundreds of community harvesting events, with upwards of 30,000 lbs of fruit harvested to date.
Calgary Harvest is accountable to at least two actors in Calgary’s local food system:
- Tree owners who have registered their trees. The tree owners who have registered their trees after hearing about the project did so mainly because they find it difficult to see their surplus fruit go unharvested and eventually wasted. For Calgary Harvest, we consider ourselves accountable to facilitating a better use for this unused fruit, and we feel we need to improve our ability to harvest much more fruit than we currently are.
- Community members who are interested in obtaining local fruit. The second group of people Calgary Harvest is concerned with are community members interested in picking local fruit. This group of people have signed up as pickers mainly because they are attracted to acquiring larger amounts of fruit that would otherwise require access to an orchard. Others arrive because they feel harvesting fruit locally is a sustainable choice (of good quality of fruit).
To better serve these two groups of people, Calgary Harvest, in the long run, aims to achieve key goals outlined below. In order to feasibly move toward these goals in the longer term, it will be important to demonstrate success with a selection of smaller wins for the 2019 season.
Our Activities and Targets for 2019
We are excited to be working hard to achieve the following outcomes to grow our project and make more impact. It will take a lot of time and effort to achieve these goals beyond available time that our volunteers can provide.
- In 2019, we will harvest twice the amount of fruit collected in 2018, which amounts to a 2019 target of approximately 6000 lbs of fruit to be harvested. We will launch an outreach campaign to increase our registered tree list as well as our pickers list. We will also acquire more and better harvesting equipment to make each harvest more efficient. We will also open our first partnership with a local cidery as a local fruit supplier to eliminate wastage of surplus fruit, and to offer a modest percentage of revenue generating potential for our project. This 2019 milestone will help lead us to our long term goal of harvesting a target of 20,000 lbs of fruit collected and used annually, at a minimum. End of season update: We are happy to report that we surpassed this target and harvested approximately 10,000 lbs of fruit during the 2019 season!
- Make Calgary Harvest more visible regarding its role as a promoter of local fruit availability. In 2019, we will create more harvest-related events to engage more people and increase awareness around the quantity and variety of fruit trees in our city. We will do this by means of: (i) more social network presence, (ii) exposure of the Calgary Harvest brand through our partnership with a local cidery, (iii) increased amount of fruit picking events, and (iv) discovery of new partner organizations (i.e. picks for school groups and camps, and community kitchens). This work will support our long term goal of creating more opportunities for involving various people and organizations in Calgary’s local food system. The ability for Calgary Harvest to use all of the fruit harvested, as well as an increased ability to pick it, rests on how well Calgary Harvest is connected to other people and organizations. End of season update: We have partnered with SunnyCider this year, and helped them get closer to their goal of 100% local fruit used. We have much more work to do in this area in finding new partners, as all available volunteer hours went to administering the project.
- We have established a partnership with The Mustard Seed and for 2019, we will designate appropriate fruit trees and host several fruit picking events with the clients of this organization, leading to fun and capacity-building experiences that also result in fresh fruit being brought home. In 2019, we aim to donate approximately 10% of our harvest share to charitable organizations, such as the Mustard Seed, the Alex, and the Calgary Food Bank. As our project is able to grow, we aim to increase this share to charitable organizations. End of season update: In 2019, we successfully piloted the partnership with the Mustard Seed, although this only began near the end of the harvest season. We look forward to working with them to harvest fruit for their organization for the entire 2020 season!
- Increase our ability to manage logistical communication with our community of registered tree owners and our pickers’ community. This will also allow more Calgary Harvest representatives to share the role of managing the harvest season. Currently, Calgary Harvest manages its communication and tree database manually, which consumes a lot of time and creates complexity. We would like to automate this process as much as possible through the development and implementation of tree management and Customer Relation Management software. End of season update: This area is where Calgary Harvest needs to focus its work this winter as we have not been able to generate the funds to hire resources and purchase software to achieve this target. Building an improved tree management system will have a direct impact on the amount of time and resources it takes to plan harvests, particularly for external partners. Once Calgary Harvest is able to seek funding to hire a seasonal staff member, we will be better positioned to have the resources to pursue these activities.
- Create a series of small events that promote and celebrate local fruit and its use. These events would include a harvest party fundraising dinner, community juicing events, popup apple markets, and a recipe sharing area on our website. End of season update: We have not been able to progress on this target this year, as all of our volunteer resources have been dedicated to running the harvests. Once Calgary Harvest is able to seek funding to hire a seasonal staff member, we will be better positioned to have the resources to pursue these activities.
- In the future, Calgary Harvest has plans to launch a grafting program, where valuable discovered fruit varieties are preserved and grown on new rootstock.