JF Savard, a volunteer with the Fruit Tree Project picks fruit from an abundant backyard tree. Photo Courtesy of LifeCycles

JF Savard, a volunteer with the Fruit Tree Project picks fruit from an abundant backyard tree. Photo Courtesy of LifeCycles

LifeCycles Fruit Tree Project shifts the mindset around food access in Victoria

Volunteer-run organization on track to collect another fall bounty

With an abundance of fruit growing on the south island, LifeCycles is shifting the way food is accessed and distributed through the Fruit Tree Project.

For close to 20 years, the project has been rescuing fruit from the trees of islanders who don’t have either the time or the ability to do it themselves. What started with a car and an idea has grown into a successful volunteer-run organization connecting people in caring for both the land and each other.

Tim Fryatt, project manager of the Fruit Tree Project, said last year was a record season with the collection of 600,000 pounds of apples, cherries, peaches, pears and grapes. Even quince, almonds and walnuts are picked, mostly from urban areas.

“Victoria is a unique place that gained a reputation in the nineteenth century for fruit growing,” Fryatt said, adding that heritage trees are much more productive than younger stock.

But, Fryatt estimates more than 100,000 pounds of fruit doesn’t get harvested each year. As the city grew and land was cleared to build homes, the trees were left because homeowners liked them, he said.

“A lot of people who have fruit trees probably inherited them, and don’t know how to take care of them properly,” he explained.

The project is developing programs to help with this, as well as offer more education to property owners on how they can provide better care for the trees, themselves.

While yields are lower this year, due in part to the trees recuperating from two years of drought, the project has partnered with Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub again. Kala Hadfield, a brewer and cider maker with the family owned business is excited about this year’s fall offering: spiced apple beer. Hadfield describes it “like a snakebite, and putting a twist on that by adding cinnamon, nutmeg and clove directly into the brew.”

“Pumpkin beers are becoming a dying trend,” she said. “This is a good way to celebrate the [apple] harvest.”

The Fruit Tree Project distributes the collected fruit to over 45 community partners including food banks to help address food insecurity. Most recently, the team was at the Aboriginal Back to School Picnic where Fryatt said fruit was handed out to 1,200 people.

“Food is all around us, passively growing,” Fryatt said. “This is an exciting example of how much we can grow in an urban setting and how we can shift our minds to contribute to our food.”

kristynanthony@vicnews.com