Looking Back: 2018 Season Highlights

Well, the last of the fall fruits have been picked, and it’s with heavy hearts that we’ve begun packing up for the season. It’s been another great one for NFFTT as we work to empower Toronto’s diverse communities to live sustainably through picking and sharing local fruit. This year, we picked and shared a lot of local fruit – NFFTT volunteers picked 383 trees for a whopping 20,884.44 pounds of fruit, of which 7,805.95 pounds were donated to our 33 partner agencies. It was a bumper cherry crop this year, with 2,343 pounds picked, as with grapes, which weighed in at a total of 3,576 pounds. As usual, apples made up the lion’s share of our picking this season, with 9342 pounds picked!

We also had the opportunity to deepen our relationships with some of our partner agencies and the communities they serve by going one step further than delivering fruit to their doors. One highlight was our workshop series with the Regent Park Community Food Centre, where we led a series of fruit picks and canning / preserving workshops for Regent Park and NFFTT volunteers. We also led fruit picks with some of our other partners, such as our neighbours at Na-Me-Res, the Native men’s residence, our friends at The Griffin Centre a mental health agency for LGBTQ youth, and Houselink Community Homes. And when we weren’t in the trees, we were pressing cider at The Stop Community Food Centre’s Good Food For All Festival and Taste of Regent, and spreading the word about urban fruit at farmers markets and community fairs.

The 11th annual City Cider at Spadina Museum was another high point in our season, and a great way to celebrate this year’s fantastic urban harvest with over 1,200 members of the NFFTT community. With live music, cider and food made from NFFTT fruit, fresh cider pressing, a community market, and our friends at Cohen and Master running a spectacular tree climbing activity, City Cider 2018 was a hit!

With the fruit season behind us, it’s now time to turn our thoughts towards next year. We know that there are many areas of the city with bountiful urban orchards that we haven’t been able to pick in yet. We made it up to Black Creek Pioneer Village for an apple pick with our friends at Black Creek Community Farm, and are hoping to do more picking in the Black Creek area next season. We also know, and have heard from our volunteers, that there is an urgent need for tree care in Toronto’s urban orchard – many fruit trees are going unpruned, suffering from disease or malnourished. That’s why we’re developing a series of tree care workshops that we’ll be rolling out early in 2019 along with a suite of online tree care resources to help tree owners across the city maintain the health of our urban orchard.

This may have been one the first fruit seasons that we really started feeling the impacts of climate change. Although fruit yields were high, so was the frequency of intense rain storms (anyone who was out on a fruit pick during one knows this viscerally) and flash flooding in Toronto, not to mention a noticeable increase in the instance of climate-related disasters across the world. With the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report painting a very grim picture for the immediate global future, we see the proliferation of alternative food systems as a key factor in fostering sustainability and increasing food access and security. Year in and year out, we have seen urban fruit picking bring communities together, and we are excited to continue our work of promoting urban orchards as a viable alternative to commercial fruit.

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