Cherry Pies and Bike Rides: Stories of A Pick Leader

This season Not Far From The Tree is telling the stories of three groups, without whom our work would not be possible. This is the story of Laura, a Supreme Gleaner (volunteer pick leader).

Laura, recently from Australia, joined Not Far From The Tree this spring and has found community and fruit in Toronto.

Can you share a memorable experience you have had with Not Far From The Tree? 

Laura: The first pick I went on was mulberries. I didn’t know what a mulberry looked like. I had never eaten one before and had no idea what to expect. Marc, the Picking Coordinator, said you just take the sheets with you, I thought … the sheets? OK . . . The pick was heaps of fun. We had a girl who was really into tree climbing, so she was up the tree – she even had gear, ropes and everything  – which made me much more comfortable. She was shaking the limbs while the rest of us were holding the sheets and catching all the mulberries. It was terrific fun. And now I know what a mulberry is! I love picking them.

Another good memory is riding the bike around. You’re riding this massive thing with a bucket and it is often quite heavy as you are either carrying equipment or 50 pounds of apples or whatever. Then you get people being very curious, asking “Who are you?”, “What are you doing?”, “You look so strange on that giant bike.” It’s a lot of fun riding around and having a chat with people. I’ve been stopped I think at least once every time I have been for a ride.

Can you give an example of what you did with your share of the fruit?

I ended up picking mulberries, plums, apples, pears and cherries over the course of the season. My favourite was the cherries. I made a couple of cherry pies with them. I have never been a baker but I thought, I have a billion cherries and I need to do something with them. I sat down and looked up a few recipes and thought I would go for it.

The first recipe said “get your cherry pitter out”. I didn’t even know that was a thing! I looked up alternatives to cherry pitters on the web. You have to sterilize a bobby pin and then use the round, nook end of the bobby pin and make an “x” incision around the pit – then it would just pop out you would get the nice round cherry without the pit. That took a really long time, but it was all worth it. In the end, I ended up with three cherry pies, and they were very good. I was very proud of myself as I had never made any kind of pie before. I still have a freezer full of apple and pear pie fillings.

What does community mean to you and how important is it for people to be engaged in community?

I think it is incredibly important. When people work together they can actually change people’s lives. They change what is happening in a particular area. Not Far From The Tree is a great example of this. It is a group of like-minded passionate, very committed, people coming together and working together for this cause.

When people work together they can actually change people’s lives. They change what is happening in a particular area. Not Far From The Tree is a great example of this.

The reason people join is not because of the fruit; that is a secondary.  It has more to do with the community aspect – spending time with people who are passionate about the environment and who want to get together and make a difference. It is particularly important in an urban environment where connections are harder to find.  Not Far From The Tree helps facilitate those connections, which is amazing. Just the idea of the thousands of pounds of fruit picked and the contribution made to the community groups who benefit, like Sistering*, is incredible.

 *Editor’s Note: Sistering is one of our partner social service agencies, to find out more about their work in the community, please visit

Why is Not Far From The Tree an important organization? 

The contribution Not Far From The Tree makes to the other community groups is fantastic. I love going into the groups and seeing how excited people are — like when I brought cherries into Sistering.  The women were all asking “Can I have cherries now?” and I said “Yes absolutely!” They were just so thrilled. It was such a treat and just seeing that visual of the huge pile of cherries is such a luxury, even to me. Normally you might buy a small amount of cherries and it is quite expensive, so 30 pounds of cherries being delivered is amazing.

These women, who on other days may not have much to be excited about or don’t get to eat fresh fruit, were able to experience the bounty courtesy of Not Far From The Tree. Being able to make that difference in their lives, was incredibly exciting for me. It is one of the reasons why it’s very important.

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