On Sunday August 26, fruit pickers, gleaners, and aficionados gathered at Garfield Park on the Westside of Santa Cruz as part of the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project. Inspired by similar projects across Canada and in the US, Santa Cruz locals began organizing harvests and workshops in August 2010.
The Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project is run entirely by volunteers who help to scout and map trees, and organize harvests and workshops. The project seeks out residents willing to share their surplus fruit, as well as trees on public land or vacant lots, and then sets up designated harvest times. Workshops have included pressing cider, curing olives, and making jam and wine.
After assembling in Garfield Park, approximately fifteen people harvested different varieties of pears from two trees in the front yard of a house located a few blocks from the park. Pears were harvested by hand or using a pole and fruit picking basket.
A box was filled with pears and left for the people who live in the house and care for the trees. The ground beneath the trees was also cleared of all fallen fruit which may have been rotting.
The participants visited two additional homes on the Westside to harvest pears. The second house had a pear tree which had already been picked by someone else, and two apple trees not yet ready for harvest. There were a lot of delicious pears on the ground and in the tree at the third house.
The Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project has no set policy on what to do with the fruit. Participants typically pick more than enough for themselves and their families, and pass on the surplus to friends, neighbors, soup kitchens, or anyone else who might make use of it. One of the pickers is a teacher at an elementary school in Watsonville, and plans to invite her colleagues to join the project.
Steve Schnaar, an initiator and organizer of the project, wrote, “In my fruit-loving opinion pears are one of the best dried fruits, and that is my preferred method for preserving them.”
In addition to hosting their own events, The Fruit Tree Project also supports and collaborates with groups like the Santa Cruz Reskilling Expo, the California Rare Fruit Growers, and Transition Santa Cruz. A special harvest and fruit pressing workshop is being planned in collaboration with a local home brewing cooperative for the end of September.
You can find out more information by visiting the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project website.