Volunteering Shares a Fruitful Bounty

Volunteering Shares a Fruitful Bounty

Looking for fruitful ways to get involved? Look no further than the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project (OFTP)!

This incredible registered charity operating in the Central and South Okanagan has harvested over 475, 417 pounds of fruit and produce to share amongst the community. The organization cultivates community through a series of programs that help to reduce food waste, increase access to local produce and supports knowledge exchange around important food systems issues. Denise Oyelese is one of the volunteers making a difference with OFTP.

“I have been a volunteer all of my adult life,” says Denise, who is originally from Regina but moved to the Okanagan with her family 15 years ago, via a few years in Alberta. “I used to volunteer with the Lake Country Art Walk also, but now focus on being a fruit tree lead of rescued produce and garden farm volunteer, helping to get our newly acquired farm ready for planting.”

In 2021 OFTP was gifted a 36-acre working farm in East Kelowna by a local resident who wished for her land to be farmed sustainably for community benefit. As an organization focused on increasing equity in our local food system, OFTP is incredibly thankful for this one-of-a-kind opportunity to steward a piece of land with community benefit as their guiding principle.  On top of that, all current and future land use draws on sustainable and regenerative principles. This includes conscious water use, protection of sensitive ecosystems, cultivation of biodiversity, active soil building and choosing not to use chemicals among others.

“The farm volunteer role has included investigating and recognizing the full potential of a piece of land that may benefit the community, our watershed and our land and all the creatures that benefit from a healthy place,” continues Denise. “I love volunteering because I get to learn new things and meet new people.”

OFTP’s call for volunteers offers these opportunities to new volunteers: a fun way to meet new people, the opportunity to play in the trees and dig in the dirt, the ability to learn about how our food is grown AND you get to take some fruits and vegetables home! This inclusive volunteer opportunity sounds like our kind of jam!

For those who are not able to use all of their harvest, OFTP has options also. You can sign up your trees, orchard, farm or garden and if a Harvest Leader is available, they will arrange a date to come harvest the bounty if it is a match for their gleaning program. About 75% of all that gets picked is shared with organizations across the community, including schools and social service organization. The volunteers get to enjoy some of the fruits of their labour to take home. OFTP also uses some of the harvest to make products that they sell as a social profit opportunity.

“One of my favourite moments volunteering was one summer at a fruit pick when one of the volunteers stated that they were helping because they were the beneficiary of produce the summer before,” reflects Denise. “This reminds me of the collective power of working together – it is always amazing what can be achieved.”

“Volunteering really improves my well-being,” concludes Denise. “I would encourage everyone to volunteer – no matter how much time you have – as it all matters and makes a difference.”

To learn more about OFTP and to get involved, check out their website at www.fruittreeproject.com. For other volunteer opportunities, go to www.kcr.ca/volunteer.

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