Harvesting Langley’s backyard bounty

The annual Langley Community Harvest is looking for volunteers, donors – and ladders.

Tom Barichello’s trees are already heavy with fruit, though right now the apples, pears, and plums are not much bigger than the end of your thumb.

“It’s loaded with pears,” he said of one tree Tuesday. Hundreds of transparent apples are growing on several other trees around his home in Murrayville.

Since it’s far more than one family could ever eat or even harvest, many of those apples will go to this year’s Langley Community Harvest, which is now looking for volunteer fruit pickers and donors.

Every year, the Langley Environmental Partners Society organizes volunteers to head out to local backyards where they help harvest fruit and berries.

The harvest is divided up three ways, said program organizer Ava Reeve of LEPS. The owner can keep up to one third, the volunteer pickers can keep up to one third, and a third is donated to local food banks or other charitable causes.

In many cases, the amount picked is so extensive that donors and volunteers take slightly less than a third. Barichello pointed out that some of his fruit trees produce box after box of apples every year.

This year, LEPS is even expanding slightly, adding farm gleaning to its repertoire for the community harvest. Commercial farms that may have leftover produce that can be hand-harvested and donated are invited to apply.

Reeve is waiting to see what kind of a year it is for local fruit harvests. Over at Barichello’s property, he said it’s looking like a good year for pears, with plenty on his tree already.

In 2016, Reeve said the weather was ideal and the program had more fruit than they knew what to do with. The following year, yields were much lower.

She noted that it’s not unheard of for the program to get around 3,000 pounds of apples in a good year.

The Community Harvest has been running in Langley since 2007, but this year it could use a bit more help, Reeve said. Through the past year, a break-in saw a lot of gear, including fruit tree ladders, stolen from LEPS. Donations of equipment to help out would be appreciated, Reeve said.

Reeves advises people to register early as donors, so the fruit can be picked a few days to a week before it’s ripe.

To volunteer as a picker or fruit donor, contact Reeve at LEPS at 604-546-0337, or email Agriculture@leps.bc.ca.

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