Not Far From the Tree

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Toronto, Canada

After being dumped both personally and professionally I started to investigate volunteering opportunities and Not Far from the Tree was one of the first that came to mind.

I shot the photos of the fruit harvest for a story for Torontoist years ago and it was always something I wanted to do but never found the time.


I have lots of time now.


Not Far from the Tree is a brilliant program that rescues fruit in the city.  Throughout Toronto there are many fruit trees in backyards of homes and once the fruit ripens there is no way a homeowner can make use of it all of it, especially when it can be hundreds of pounds.

Volunteers go to the homes and pick the fruit and it is divided three ways.

One third of the fruit harvest goes to the volunteer, another to the homeowner and the third is delivered by bicycle to a community organization with a food program such as food banks, shelters and food kitchens.


This year over 10,000 lbs have been rescued.


With over 2000 volunteer hours,  a lot of fruit has been picked so far: sweet cherries, sour cherries, mulberries, service berries, apricots, plums, grapes, crab apples, elderberries, sumac, pears and apples.

Prior to Not Far from the Tree all of this was going to waste.


not far from the tree

Last week I picked apples and this week I have picked over 70lbs of concord grapes. I have never been one for manual labour but I love getting the email that a tree needs to be picked.

This is the first time in a long time where I feel like I am really doing something great for someone other than myself.

But this doesn’t come without reward, I have two giant bags of concord grapes and I need to do something with them. I heard they make great jam and now I just need to figure out how to do that.

It’s going to be an interesting Fall.


Join the Conversation

  1. Concord grapes make fantastic jam… But I think this is even better (and easier) – Boozy Concord Grapes.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I have a bunch of grapes in my freezer and I am definitely making this, thanks for the tip.

  2. Chrystal McKay says:

    What a GREAT program! I doubt there is anything like that in Thunder Bay! But that is A LOT OF GRAPES! haha Hopefully the jam turns out delicious!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I have made ten jars so far and I have more grapes in my freezer, it will be a winter of grape jam for sure.

  3. What a cool project and what a blessing that these fruits aren’t wasted!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It is incredible that they rescue 10,000 lbs of fruit, all of that was going to waste before they started the program.

  4. This is such a great program! I recently moved to a town that is in need of some local community love to give the city a boost. I am now searching for a similar program like this in my area.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I am not sure it was inspired by cities in California but I have heard of groups that go urban picking. Although this is the first program I know of that actually donates to food programs as well.

  5. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    What a creative and useful program. You’re going to be doing the delivery by bike too, right 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      With all that heavy fruit, no way the coordinator does that part!

  6. What a cool program! I like that you describe it as “rescuing” the fruit.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Otherwise it dies on the tree or ground, now it goes to a good home.

  7. Sarah Somewhere says:

    Hey Ayngelina, I think it’s so wonderful that you’ve taken personal disappointment and turned to serving others in the community! Good on you, I think more of us could take a leaf (pun intended) out of your basket and do something productive when we find ourselves at a loss. Bravo!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It keeps me busy, especially during the day and it is something I have always wanted to do but always had excuses not to do it.

  8. Rickshaw Run Diaries says:

    A wonderful initiative! Here’s to helping ourselves while we help others in need!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It is definite a win-win situation.

  9. Oh wow, I LOVE concord grapes! They are pretty hard to find in CA, though I grew up with them growing at my grandfather’s house in Pennsylvania!

    Great program, it’s so good of you to volunteer with this!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I have never had them before, but with this much at home I am certainly going to learn to love them.

  10. Good on ya, Ayng for using your time for the benefit of others. It’s been an age since I spent any time volunteering; I’m inspired to get back into it again. Hope you make that grape jam…and post a recipe and pics!!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Oh I will definitely be posting the final product!

  11. Les Petits Pas de Juls says:

    Awesome concept! And a good way to feel better! Cheers on that and hopefully everything else will end up as you wish.

    Good luck!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Thanks so much, I definitely feel like I am heading in the right direction.

  12. I love this idea especially as an apartment-living city dweller who would love my own garden but don’t have that option. Of course I also love the idea of being able to share food with my community. I should definitely look into this. Good luck with all those grapes! Looking forward to what you turn them into.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I have a tiny bit of tomatoes and herbs growing by a window but I would never have access to anything like this.

      1. My apartment is North-facing, and my poor plants do ok (some of them) but they mostly strain to stretch to the West. Too bad you can’t have the best of both city and country in one place…or maybe you can but I haven’t found it yet.

  13. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    What an awesome project!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Most people in the city don`t know about it but it keeps growing each year.

  14. Reminds me of my mom’s peach tree. We’re always trying to find people to give peaches to! What a great program. The literal fruits of your labor are probably quite awesome as well.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Exactly! And this way when it comes to fruit bearing time you can get someone to pick the whole thing for you.

  15. Alana - Gen Y Wanderer says:

    How cool – I’ve always wanted to spend some time working on a farm…

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Me too, I had planned to WWOOF in Italy last Fall but my Nanny was sick and I had to come home. This is great because you only commit to two hours at a time.

  16. A Cook Not Mad (Nat) says:

    Volunteering makes you feel as good as the good you do 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It can be very addicting. I have picked a lot of grapes.

  17. This sounds like my kind of project. Takes me back to my childhood days when my parents would make my sister and I pick loads of blackberries and peel loads of apples so they could make potent wine that we weren’t allowed to drink! Sometimes we got a crumble – if we’d been really good!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I was never very good at manual labour as a child, I was lazy and complained a lot. But I really enjoy doing this, and feel satisfied when we are done.

  18. Wow, what an incredible project. Aynge, I admire you so much for looking for ways to help out in your own backyard.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I am trying to find ways to help out that don`t need a weekly appointment as I need some flexibility with travel. It isn`t easy but NFFTT sends an email out and you just respond if you can make it, it`s so easy.

  19. Very cool! Glad to know about a project that actually rescues fruit. As a vegetarian, I think it’ brilliant. We just don’t get enough Vitamin C in our daily diets.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I am still hoping to do pears before the season is over, fingers crossed.

  20. What a fab project! I would totally do it. I love WWOOFing and this is kind of in the same direction. Good on ya!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I would really like to do some WWOOFing in the future. I had planned to do some last Fall but things didn`t work out. I may try again next Fall.

  21. Susan @ Travel Junkette says:

    What a cool organization! That’s awesome that you’re helping out — great way to get back into things in Toronto. Have fun!

  22. Kasandra Bracken says:

    Awesome, Ayngelina! I love this organization, we learnt about them in my Food Security classes at Ryerson (though I’m sad I missed your Torontoist shots ;)). I think you are doing an awesome thing – it really is all about your frame of mind 🙂 Keep at it, woman!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I have heard interesting things about Ryerson’s Food Security course, are you going it by distance ed?

      1. Kasandra Bracken says:

        It’s only available by Distance Ed, but I did it last year and finished my certificate at the end of this past summer. It was definitely interesting—a little too much policy for me though!!

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