I used to sometimes see an apple, damson or plum tree in a garden, laden with fruit which, with time, would end up rotting on the ground as the householders didn’t manage to make use of this beautiful harvest. I sometimes wondered about asking if the owner wouldn’t mind me gathering some of the crop, but mostly I didn’t step out of my comfort zone in this way.
Three or four years ago, I discovered there was a group of us who felt it was time to do something about this waste of a wonderful local resource – so we set up the Harvest Share project. Every year, starting in late summer, we help local folks harvest, process if needed, and store / distribute any spare crops from gardens, allotments, and fields (and the odd skip behind food shops). We pick and gather; we make jams, jellys, chutneys, and cordials; we bottle and jar; and we hold juicing days.
For these, we borrow an apple mill and a press from a local market garden. People bring apples if they have some, or just come to join in the fun, and we wash, chop, mill and press apples (and some pears), all day long. Last autumn we held 6 of these days, with 20 – 30 people at each event. They were in our back gardens, in a local school, at a market garden, at a farm – wherever it was asked for. It is very popular as you no doubt know from similar events you have probably been at!
Harvest Share brings great benefits for the health of local folks – physical, emotional, spiritual – through working together, drinking fresh juice, eating more local produce, knowing we are reducing waste and making a positive difference. And it is helping us all get out and about more, and feel more connected to our neighbours and local environment.
People are happy to have help with making the most of their glut of fruit or vegetables – they are mostly unhappy to see it rot away! However, a lot of the oldendays skills are getting forgotten, so together, we are re-learning how to harvest, store, and process foods in different ways. This is immensely empowering! We are looking forward to many more wonderful Harvest Sharing experiences.
Margy Henderson on behalf of Transition Stourbridge