Before this season gets going, here's a round up of last year's successes:
Fruit picking groups in Brent have had a bumper harvest this year, saving over three tonnes of fruit that would otherwise go to waste in local gardens. Two Transition groups (Kensal to Kilburn Fruit Harvesters and Willesden Fruit Harvesters) and Mapesbury Residents' Association (MapRA) have between them picked a record amount of fruit, which has been shared with local schools and community groups.
Around a hundred and fifty volunteers have helped pick this year's crop of apples, pears, elderflowers, plums, grapes, blackberries, mulberries and medlars. The fruit is given to local schools and charities including the MS Society, the Salvation Army, Mayhew Animal Home, St Mungo's, Sufra and Brent Food Banks, and church homeless groups, and has been made into delicious juice, chutney, cordial, jam and wine. The grand total includes a record 625kg from a joint groups' big pick at Fryent Country Park in Kingsbury.
Janey McAllester, who co-ordinates picks for “Kensal to Kilburn Fruit Harvesters” says, “We've had a bumper year: more fruit saved from going to waste, more pickers joining our community spirit and more organisations benefitting from the harvest.”
Vendy Hudcova, who co-ordinates picks for “Willesden Fruit Harvesters” says, “It has been a really good year for apples. We picked from August to October and saved over 800kg of fruit - the most we've ever harvested. We had many new tree owners who were happy to share their fruit, and several new pickers join our group this year. We involved the 4th Brondesbury Girl Guides, and a two year old toddler also joined us on a couple of picks!”
The project has made a big difference to local residents in need. Stephen Chamberlain, Co-ordinator at Saint Laurence’s Larder and Open Kitchen held at Christ Church in Willesden Lane, says, “At Christ Church we provide a three course vegetarian meal for Brent's most marginalised community - the homeless people who live in B&Bs or hostels."
"Thanks to the generous supply from local harvesting groups, we were able offer bagged organic fruit, and to produce and prepare many, many freshly baked apple and pear crumbles to eat at our Tuesday and Thursday drop-in and take-away evening meal services. The windfalls and picked fruit have indeed been a godsend for our guests."
Gerry Weston, who co-ordinates picks for MapRA, says, “We had fewer people and picks this year, but still harvested 98kg of fruit which was donated to Ashford Place and Malorees school. We are looking for more people to get involved next year.”
Local Fruit Harvesters was set up in 2009 by Brent residents Michael Stuart and Viv Stein, and has become part of the borough's two Transition Town groups - Kensal to Kilburn and Willesden, and taken on by MapRA in Mapesbury. The Willesden group pick fruit in Willesden, Dollis Hill and Cricklewood. The award-winning project is part of the national Abundance Network. The fruit gets shared out between garden owners, volunteer pickers and distributed to local schools, charities, restaurants and shops on a non-profit basis. The projects have also trained over seventy people to prune fruit trees.