Article by Emma Gehrs-Whyte, Cafe Supervisor at Sam’s Place.
Sam’s Place is a café, used bookstore, and music performance venue located at 159 Henderson Highway. A program of Mennonite Central Committee, Sam’s is a unique business in the Elmwood community, fostering an environment of—as we like to say—“coffee, culture, and conversation”. One of our core values is sustainable, healthy, and affordable food choices: we use local and organic meat, veggies, flour, and grain products in the sandwiches, soups, salads, and baking on our menu. Our organization is kept alive and interesting by countless hours of volunteer service. To celebrate our extraordinary volunteer community, we wanted to organize a special event for our youth volunteers to bond and have some fun.
What better way for us to do that, than to sign up for a group pick with Fruit Share? We would keep some of our bounty for the restaurant, and enable our youth volunteers to enjoy (literally) the fruits of their own labour.
Group picking was easy to set up: a few emails and forms and we were set to go! When we arrived on the agreed-upon day, we met the lovely homeowner who had registered to have her fruit picked, and in the backyard, we met her beautiful tree. It was dripping with delicious apples, and it didn’t take long for us to stumble upon our catchphrase for the afternoon: “I can’t believe how many there are!”
A light rain in the afternoon kept us cool while picking. Armed with a tall ladder and apple pickers we borrowed from Fruit Share, and some equipment of our own, we reached as high as we could to get at the loaded branches. We kept at it for over two hours, during which time we became progressively wetter, and our boxes filled up as the tree (albeit very slowly) became progressively emptier.
We had planned on a barbecue in the park following the pick, but the rain drove our tired, muddy crew back to the warmth of Sam’s Place instead, to divide up the apples and finish off the day with a delicious meal. Our satisfaction at a job well done went very well with hamburgers and farmer’s sausage patties!
All in all, it was a beautiful day of community despite the dreary weather. We strengthened our group as we worked together as a team outside of the familiar walls of Sam’s Place. We forged new connections with a neighbour who offered us this fabulous experience in exchange for a bin full of crab apples and relief from the burden of unusable fruit in her yard. And we got several boxes ourselves to turn into delicious lunch specials at Sam’s Place—like a grilled crab apple Panini with Swiss chard, caramelized onions, mozzarella, and feta on our fresh focaccia bread. Yum!
If you are part of a group, or know of one who would like to participate in a group pick, please fill out a group harvest request form here: https://www.fruitshare.ca/volunteer-information/group-registration-volunteers/ or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org