Heat wave forces earlier harvest

LifeCycles needs volunteer pickers to keep up with demand

Brian MacDonald picks transparent apples from a privately owned tree that partly hangs over Francisco Park in Gordon Head.

The dry summer weather has led to an early start on fruit harvests, and the need for volunteers is as great as always for the LifeCycles Fruit Tree Project.

LifeCycles anticipates a 40,000-pound fruit harvest in the Greater Victoria region over the next two months.

“We always need more volunteers as we have the potential to harvest even more fruit,” said Fruit Tree Project co-ordinator Jenny McCartney. “This year’s expected harvest is up from 32,000 pounds last year.”

The Fruit Tree Project allocates 25 per cent of the harvest to the tree owner, 25 per cent to the volunteers, and shares the rest with community associations, food banks and others. The annual harvest is four months long and collects fruit from privately owned trees that would otherwise go to waste.

A lot of the problem is all the fruit is ripening at the same time, McCartney explained. In particular, LifeCycles has noted a need to get the message out about watering apple trees.

“Without water, trees will protect themselves by dropping the fruit before it’s ripe, and earlier than normal. People here aren’t used to having to water fruit trees. Last year was the first year we realized a need to water trees in Greater Victoria.”

The apparent climate change is showing its effect as 2015 is the earliest harvest in nine years of the Fruit Tree Project.

“We track our harvesting with data and can see the trend is earlier and earlier every year,” said McCartney. “This year, for example, is three weeks earlier than last year and about four to five weeks earlier than four years ago.”

As California is in its fourth year of a significant draught, LifeCycles said the residual effect is a 25 to 50 per cent spike in B.C. produce prices over the next five years.

“LifeCycles has contributed so much,” says Sheila Avery, co-ordinator of food security at Saanich Neighbourhood Place. “They have connected community members to contribute vegetables and fruits to our many families.”

To volunteer or register a fruit tree to LifeCycles visit lifecyclesproject.ca.





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