Helping through the fruits of their labours

Decades ago, when Langley was still a mostly-rural community of small family farms, almost every family had its own fruit tree or orchard out back.

It was a good source of food, whether raw or in preserves and jams, jelly, or pies.

When much of Langley became part of suburbia, many of the trees remained, or their descendents sprouted in backyards.

Every year, those trees produce more fruit than many residents can possibly use.

Thus the Langley Community Harvest helps cart away any extra fruit, and put it to good use.

The program was founded in 2007 by the Langley Advance, but for the past four years the Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS) has organized the volunteer harvest.

On a recent sunny morning, a crew of four was out in Walnut Grove to harvest yellow plums from a spreading backyard tree.

“This is way better than sitting at my desk right now,” said Leslie Kristoff, a LEPS board member.

This is her third year as part of the volunteer picking crews.

Kristoff and her fellow harvesters can take home up to one third of the harvest from a given tree. Another third is given to the homeowner. The final third heads off to the Langley Food Bank, where it will be distributed to people who need help stocking their pantries.

“Before I heard about the Community Harvest, we had more plums than we could manage,” said Cam Penner. “We actually ended up throwing out many pounds of perfectly good fruit. The program has made sure that our extra goes to a very worthwhile cause.”

Some of the fruit is being diverted to charity twice over.

“I’m turning mine into jams for the Gogos,” said Sandra Reams.

Reams is a member of the Langley Gogo Grandmothers, which raises money around the year for the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

The foundation helps grandmothers in Africa whose families have been devastated by HIV and AIDS.

Gogo is a respectful Zulu word for grandmother and many grandmothers are raising their children’s children.

Reams expects to get some good prices for her plum jam and donate the proceeds.

This is her first year with the Langley Community Harvest, but she has also done canning workshops for LEPS in the past.

Stephanie Captein, who oversees the annual program, said there has been a lot of interest this year, and the good weather through the later part of July and early August has been good for the fruit.

“Everything’s kind of ripening up early,” she said.

There are new people with trees calling in from around the community.

They are a mixture of people just hearing about the program, and newcomers who want to do something with the fruit trees they’ve found in their yards.

Some of the residents are getting a bit older and aren’t as keen on going up ladders to pick anymore.

Some of them have easier ways of getting into the trees, Captein said.

“One fellow took me up in his scissor lift!” she said.

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