As part of our ongoing summer collaboration with the Regent Park Community Food Centre, we recently lead two serviceberry picks with the community in Regent Park. The first pick took place on June 26th, shortly after our Fruit Tree Tour. Thanks to the folks at Ryerson University Urban Farm — whose programming we totally love — we met up with some seasonal fruit fans and community garden participants from Regent Park CFC to get a handful of the serviceberries growing right on campus.
It’s amazing to think about the extensive biodiversity that exists in an urban centre like Ryerson’s campus. The fruit trees and lush vegetable gardens are a nice reminder that food is always growing in unexpected places and that learning doesn’t just take place in the classroom.
We spread out in small groups across the Ryerson campus, gleaning serviceberries. When we came back together, our harvest totaled 20 pounds! According to NFFTT’s Picking Program and Events Coordinator Rahul Mehta, the appeal of this pick was the unusual challenge of such a large site, especially for many first-time fruit pickers. The big takeaway? “Everyone went away feeling like they did something big,” said Rahul, making this an “example of partnership but also a showcase of the energy and kind contributions of the local community. They’re so generous with their energy and their time.”
If you thought the keen fruit pickers from Regent Park CFC were tired, think again! Two days later, we tackled the serviceberry trees in Regent Park. This time, the pick was lead by our Picking Program & Events Assistant Lucas Meillach-Boston and Communications and Marketing Assistant Katie Connell. Joined by a smaller group, our team tackled five serviceberry trees in two different locations near Regent Park CFC. It was almost poetic to see and pick a tree full of juicy serviceberries on the outskirts of a parking lot — an important reminder that fruit is everywhere. One just has to look around.
Sometimes we had to get creative to get to the top branches: picking poles, conveyor belt methods, and standing on the tips of our toes. Anything to get those gleaming, ripe bunches! Our buckets filled up quickly. A major shout out to folks passing by that stopped to help us pick, or those that shared stories of all the fruit they remember while growing up in Jamaica.
We love learning more about peoples’ memories of fruit. A simple fruit pick is an opportunity for neighbours to connect, and share important life stories or connections to home. As Lucas summed up so nicely, this pick was “different from being in someone’s backyard. When you’re in the community, fruit picking becomes an attraction. People have an opportunity to become engaged.”
After a couple of hours, we stopped to combine our buckets and admire our haul: 11 pounds of ready-to-eat berries. We took them to the freezer to use in our midsummer canning and preserving workshops with Regent Park CFC. The first one is on July 26th, and you better believe we’ll be covering it!