Darebin Fruit Squad. Harvesting excess home-grown fruit, Sharing knowledge to maintain the urban orchard, Addressing a need for food security in Darebin.
Harvesting excess home-grown fruit,
Sharing knowledge to maintain the urban orchard,
Addressing a need for food security in Darebin.
Darebin Fruit Squad is a community project managed by JikaJika Community Centre with support from Transition Darebin, and funding from Darebin Council and the Federal Government.
STEP 1.Registration and Tree Auditing
Householders make contact with us to register their fruit trees to be harvested, or their homegrown fruit to be collected. Fruit Squad Tree Auditors visit the householder to get official permission to harvest the fruit, assess the health of the fruit tree(s), and estimate how many pickers will need to be sent to pick the fruit.
STEP 2.Harvest or Collection
Fruit Squad Pickers arrive at an agreed time and harvest. If the householder prefers to pick the fruit themselves, then we make arrangements to collect the fruit, on occasion the householder will drop the fruit off to JikaJika.
STEP 3.Record Update
The Fruit is weighed and logged. These stats are kept on a database that helps us keep a track of the variety of fruit and the amount we garner.
STEP 4.Food Security Organisation
The fruit then goes to a Food Security Organisation like SecondBite, DIVRS Emergency relief, The Salvos, or the ASRC, who supply it to people in need.
Members of Transition Darebin considered food production and the wealth of mature fruit trees already in Darebin forming an impressive urban orchard. Three of those TD members set out to plan a project to address the food shortfall while taking advantage of fruit that currently goes to waste.
The Fruit Squad, needing a home, approached JikaJika Community Centre, where they were given admin support, cupboards to store fruit in until it was picked up or delivered, and an office to work from. A lot of time and effort was taken to organise, train, and develop the Fruit Squad.The first phase was to recruit and train a group of 18 volunteers (the Super-heroes in this story) to harvest the fruit.Posters were up at nurseries and cafés around Northcote, asking the community if they had any fruit growing in their yards they wouldn’t be using. In the first ‘Spot Harvest’ of November 2012, The volunteers, who had by then undergone training in 2 units of an especially designed NMIT horticultural training course, collected 169.5 kgs of lemons, loquats, cumquats, mandarins, and apricots. Funding was sought to appoint an administrator and to buy equipment with. A grant application to Darebin City Council was well received, but required an auspicing body to manage the funds. The Community Centre was then further involved in negotiations and JikaJika took on the management of the project, with a view to expanding the reach of the Squad to include the entire municipality.
We have, to date, collected just over 1150kgs of: apples, apricots, cumquats, feijoa, figs, grapefruit, lemons, limes, loquats, mandarins, monsteradeliciosa, nashi, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears,pecans, persimmons, plums, pomegranates and quinces. We’ve also been given Rosemary, lemon thyme, lemon balm, bay, sage and majorum. Most of our harvests only yield a modest amount of fruit; a kilo of limes, 4kg of apples, 19 kg of lemons, for example, but occasionally we’ll get a bumper crop. One of those crops of, 107kgs of Oranges, was from 1 tree.
The Darebin Fruit Squad currently consists of (an administrator, 1 day a week) 12 active volunteers at the moment, with 3 in reserve, and 3 new volunteers lined up for training.
The original volunteers who went through the training at NMIT, now form the backbone of the Squad. These vols will be guiding the new volunteers in the field. We are about to start monthly training sessions with guest horticulturalists and fruit tree experts to benefit all of the volunteers in helping them increase their knowledge of organic pest and disease management, pruning methods for various trees, tool safety and maintenance, etc. Some of these training sessions will be open to the community to attend at a small fee to help with the costs of running the events.
Knowledge sharing is also an important part of the exchange with the volunteers, and also the householders who have registered their trees to donate fruit. There are people who have registered their fruit to be harvested by the Squad who are elderly and know a lot about their trees and how best to care for them, however may no longer be physically up to maintaining the trees. Learning about fruit trees is ongoing. The project offers a great opportunity for our volunteers to learn about fruit like Feijoas and Persimmons, and hear about methods of caring for trees that they might not have come across before. Knowledge sharing amongst the volunteers is also invaluable, a rewarding way for vols to learn. The project has more recently moved into minor maintenance for selected householders in order to better maintain trees that need some care.
The Darebin Fruit Squad is reliant on it’s supergroup of Volunteers, and we hope to develop a solid administrative process so that the project can sustain itself and self-govern with volunteers taking on more roles in the future. We also hope that the model can be shared and adopted and developed by other community groups.
The Administrative process that we are in the process of developing will hopefully be a model that can be assimilated and developed further by other groups, in other municipalities; sharing of knowledge and interest and skills in horticulture, cultivating an interest in caring for the greater ‘urban orchard’, and an awareness of food security issues. There are so many fruit trees in the Northern Suburbs that were planted by previous generations. They were planted in order to feed future generations, us. A certain amount of this food has been going to waste in Darebin
We are currently documenting the processes we use and hope to create a ‘how to kit’ at some point in the near future.
Growing Abundance in Castlemaine
Street Harvest in Woodonga
Village Harvest in San Francisco
The idea of giving excess fruit to people in need is not an original one. There are similar groups, organisations and projects around. Growing Abundance run by the Castlemaine Community Centre has been going for 4 years now, and there is an organisation called Village Harvest that has been very successful in San Francisco in the US. One of our volunteers is actually going to be visiting them this year while on a family visit.
Each group has a slightly different methodology due to it’s context. Sometimes the main focus of the group is different as well. Darebin Fruit Squad’s focus is to address the issue of food security in a context of an abundant fruit tree area. Growing Abundance in Castlemaine focus is in developing and strengthening a community. What all the groups do have in common is that they have sustainability as a core principle, and all of them involve a community of volunteer support.
Some very inspirational movements are happening all over the world, one that is really worth looking into is incredible Edible. Pam Warhurst, one of the founding members of the Incredible Edible movement in a town called Todmorden in the UK, has given an excellent TED talk.
I remember the Slow Food movement starting in Italy in the 90’s when I was still at Art School, and it has now grown to be an international organisation, supporting the cultivation and culture of locally grown, organic, and fair food. Google Carlo Petrini’s name, or Slow Food, to find out more about it.
Please visit our website www.darebinfruitsquad.org, you can keep an eye on our total kgs of fruit collected onGet Inspired
Or google Pam Warhurst or Incredible Edible.
Google Carlo Petrini, or the Slow Food Movement.
Come and visit the Darebin Fruit Squad at Jika Jika Community Centre.