A “Picking Blitz” with LoyaltyOne

This September took us by surprise. After a slow fruit season in July and August, all the trees suddenly exploded at once! 

The cold spring delayed ripening across the board. Usually there is a steady supply of fruit from July to September, but this year grapes, pears, apples, crabapples, and plums weren’t ready until September. Then boom! All of a sudden we had over 100 requests for picks in September alone.

During this peak harvest season, we need all the help we can get. This is why we’re so thankful that a team from LoyaltyOne dedicated an afternoon to join us on a “Picking Blitz” to pick multiple trees and grape vines in one neighbourhood this September.

Every year LoyaltyOne hosts a CommunityOne Week , where their offices across the world spend a half-day volunteering for causes they’re most passionate about. In 2018 they collectively volunteered more than 3,800 hours! 

The “Picking Blitz” began in the driveway of a home in the Humewood neighbourhood, north of St. Clair West. A grape vine with bright green grapes had taken hold on the side of one house, draped itself across the driveway, and attached itself to the neighbouring house. Both homeowners generously agreed to register the vine with us, hoping to share the grapes with the community before the raccoons gorged themselves. Green splatters dotted the driveway beneath, a sure-fire sign that racoons had already been quite active!

LoyaltyOne volunteers gathered under the grape vine to learn a few picking tips for grapes (snip the top of the bunch, but not the vine!), how to collect and weigh the grapes, and ladder safety tips. 

We then divided the volunteers into two groups to divide and conquer. With their help we would pick two grape vines, and 3 apple trees. The second group walked a few houses down where another homeowner had generously registered their grape vine – this one dark, delicious concords.

LoyaltyOne Volunteers Picking Grapes

The first grape vine was finished quickly. The group picked up the technique quickly, and got creative to reach the tallest parts of the vine, using a ladder and over-turning milk crates they found in the driveway. All in all, the vine produced 10 pounds of green grapes. Not bad for a small vine! 

The group then armed themselves with GARDENA picking poles, and marched a few streets over to pick the first apple tree of the day. This apple tree was located in the front yard of a house, and as soon as we turned onto the street, it was obvious which tree it was. The tree was absolutely loaded with apples! It was a bumper crop and the branches were visibly drooping from the weight of the apples. The team immediately got to work picking, and it required all hands on deck. 

Apples began flying everywhere and buckets filled up in what seemed like minutes. We quickly had to start filling tote bags as well to contain the massive harvest. Once we picked all the apples that were within our reach with the combination of ladders and picking poles, we weighed the bounty. The tally for this tree was 97 pounds!

LoyaltyOne Volunteers Picking Apples

We loaded up the bounty, and walked only a few doors down to the next apple trees. At this property there were two, bright red delicious apple trees in a backyard. These trees were a much more manageable height, and the team quickly went to work again, picking a total 147 lbs! By that point we had filled literally every bucket and bag we had brought with us. 

This team walked back to meet up with the second group who had picked the concord grapes and another apple tree as well.

We combined our harvests, and weighed in the final tally at a whopping 503 lbs!! This was the largest pick of the season! 

Volunteers helped load up our Enterprise Carshare van to transport the harvest to multiple partner agencies across Toronto. Sometimes the bounty is just too big for our trusty cargo bikes to handle!

The delicious concord grapes – always a crowd favourite! – were shared with a Fred Victor location in Toronto. Many of our partner agencies don’t have regular access to fresh fruit without these types of deliveries. Being able to share 503 pounds of fruit with the community had a huge impact.

Thank you so much to the group from LoyaltyOne for picking and sharing fruit with the community! 

Further Reading

Picking & Preserving with Romero House

A “Picking Blitz” with LoyaltyOne