Town Council approves urban harvest program

September 28, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Jasen Obermeyer

Orangeville Council approved the creation of an urban harvest program, where volunteers will pick fresh fruit from private properties.

At Monday’s (April 9) meeting, council heard a presentation by Martina Rowley, a member of the Orangeville Sustainability Action Team (OSAT), looking for council’s support of $1,000 for an urban harvest program, as part of the town’s sustainability plan. The program would see volunteers pick fresh fruit off trees from private properties, to be given to the Orangeville Food Bank.

“Many cities and towns have large numbers of fruit trees on public and private lands, that go unpicked and unused,” said Ms. Rowley. “I believe Orangeville has a real opportunity here.”

She explained that the plan is to start marketing and outreach in May, conduct data collecting and volunteer recruiting from May to September, then pick the fruit between July and October, depending on the fruit’s harvest time.

“I believe that when a town has such a great need for food as we do here, anything that grows free and literally right under our noses should not go ignored and wasted.”

Ms. Rowley recalled how last fall, she organized an impromptu harvest of three apple and pear trees with two friends, and said that in two hours they picked 130 pounds of fruit. “Imagine what I can accomplish with more volunteers and several more trees.”

Councillor Nick Garisto asked who is responsible if someone is injured.

Ms. Rowley said there will be a waiver and will discuss with the town, the proper wording of the legal document, for both volunteers and homeowners. She added they would make sure the volunteers are of age to be able to do the work.

After hearing that, Councillor Garisto said he was on board and believed the program was a good cause.

Councillor Donn Kidd explained he wouldn’t support this program because of the possibility of a lawsuit even if there were a waiver. “It could come back to bit us.”

Councillor Bradley, chair of OSAT, explained they are looking for approval of the program, and will then work out the legal details, the finer points of the program, and the volunteers and homeowners, but Councillor Kidd would not change his mind.

Orangeville Mayor Jeremy Williams said he likes the idea “on the surface,” but wondered if spending $1,000 will mean they get that value in fruit. “I get very nervous when I hear things like knocking on people’s doors to see if they want to let you pick fruit from their tree, I get nervous when we’re looking at analyzing data to see who has fruit trees. It just feels a little big brother to me.”

After Councillor Bradley put forward the motion to accept the proposal and Councillor Scott Wilson seconded it, council approved the program, with only Mayor Williams and Councillor Kidd dissenting.

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