Have Apple Picker, Will Harvest

Each year, tons of fruit and produce are wasted because they haven't been harvested. The Good Food Collective takes advantage of the unused abundance by organizing volunteers to glean fields and fruit trees and to make sure the food gets onto the tables of those in need.

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[00:00:00] Apple trees throughout southwest Colorado are heavy with fruit, and rather than let them rot or become bear fodder. One organization is determined to harvest as many apples as it can to redistribute to food banks and families in need. You're watching the Local News Network brought to you by 2180 Lighting and Design. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. Rachel Landis just cringes when food goes to waste, especially when one in four children in Southwest Colorado lacks enough good food to eat. And thousands of adults are food insecure. Literally tons of food are wasted annually in the United States because it remains rotting in fields or falling from trees. And Landis wants to see that food wind up on a family's dinner table. Landis is director of the Good Food Collective, a three-year-old nonprofit that connects excess food to families by building a local economic food system to produce and distribute healthy, fresh, nutritious food to families in need. The collective supports production by purchasing food from local farmers for food banks and soup kitchens. It pays mobile workers a livable wage to help farmers harvest crops quickly to reduce waste. And volunteers glean fields for unpicked produce that's still good to eat. [00:01:18][78.4]

[00:01:19] We capture excess fruit from backyard trees. We'll also go out to orchards if folks want us to. And we work with farmers before they turn in their crop or if they've got something they don't want and don't have a market for. We'll go out and harvest that. And then all that food gets donated back to food banks and food pantries across kind of primarily La Plata and Montezuma County. But we'll also work up with San Juan County, Dolores counties and Archuleta county. [00:01:46][26.9]

[00:01:47] Right now, volunteers are gleaning fruit from a bumper apple crop in Southwest Colorado. They'll help commercial producers harvest their trees or they'll harvest that backyard apple tree that's attracting hungry bears and other critters. The collective hosts Wednesday night gleaning happy hours. If the pickers can reach them. No apple goes to waste. Apples on the ground are safe for pig fodder or recycled in compost, while apples pick directly from the tree are delivered for food distribution. And every fall, the Good Food Collective hosts apple days and sells fresh, pressed cider as a fundraiser. So far this year, the collective has harvested more than two hundred and thirty thousand pounds of apples that it distributed to 65 food organizations and 16 businesses. Yet tons remain on Southwest Colorado trees. [00:02:37][50.0]

[00:02:38] Apples are biannual, so they kind of waiver on and off. And so this is kind of their on year. And it was coupled with kind of we didn't have in too many early freezes and we had some good growing conditions and now kind of prolonged heat spell that has kept the apples going. And, yeah, they just keep growing. [00:02:57][18.8]

[00:02:58] The collective recently purchased a commercial food dehydrator to produce dried apples for sale, and it's looking for additional opportunities to turn excess food into edible products. For Landis, her work is a calling because she says a sustainable local food system is the foundation of a healthy community and no one should go hungry with the abundance of food available for the picking. [00:03:21][23.4]

[00:03:23] I think for me, food is this place that connects all of us. Like, especially in these...it connects us and it grounds us, right? Like right now we live in this moment. It feels divisive and very uncertain. And especially this year, of all years, to go out there with a few different small group of community members to pick fruit and just connect and communicate and eat together. It's a pretty powerful thing. [00:03:48][25.6]

[00:03:50] Volunteers will continue to glean trees and fields through the end of October. If you want to volunteer for an apple cleaning or to list a tree to be harvested. Visit the collective's Web site at Good Food Collective.org. Volunteers get to keep all the apples they want. Thanks for watching the Local News Network. Now you can listen to our stories anytime, anywhere on your favorite podcast app. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. [00:03:50][0.0]



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