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Harvesting the Urban Forest for Orchard Park

Harvesting the Urban Forest for Orchard Park

on Apr 24, 2014 | 0 comments

More people were in Orchard Park than you would expect on a rainy October Saturday. Huddled under tarps several dozen people were surrounded by buckets of apples ready to be made into cider. The apples were collected from several neighbourhood picks, a generous contribution from a neighbour’s Grimsby farm, as well as additional community contributions.

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The idea for a cider-pressing event came from Friends of Orchard Park members Andrew Macdonald, Sally Bliss, and Camilla Sutton who saw it as a great way to bring neighbours out to meet each other and do something enjoyable together. “Sally mentioned the idea to Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon at a farmer’s market one afternoon, and she loved the idea” said Andrew. “Mary-Margaret knew of a coffee shop in her ward that had two apple trees that were ripe and beginning to drop onto their outdoor patio.” The Ward 32 Councillor immediately introduced the Orchard Park group to Juice & Java, located at Queen St. and Wineva Ave. in the Beach. “When we saw the trees we realized they would be tough to harvest because the apples were so high up,” he said.

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Realizing the need for specialized picking equipment Andrew contacted Not Far From the Tree (NFFTT). He had volunteered on several NFFTT picks and attended their City Cider event, and knew their unique model allowed volunteers, homeowners (and sometimes business owners) and local charities to all benefit from picking fruit across the city that would otherwise go to waste. NFFTT provided telescoping apple pickers, and the special pick yielded roughly 60lbs for the cider event – about half the total apples pressed.  NFFTT also lent the Orchard Park Group their grinder and press, saving them the trouble of having to go out and find them.

A small group of local volunteers oversaw the processing, ensuring the apples were clean and then cutting and grinding the apples. Grinding requires mechanical equipment, especially when cider is being produced on a large scale. In the case of the Cider Sensations event, 20 bushels of apples had been picked in total – a nearly industrial amount. Luckily, nearly 50 volunteers turned out for the event to help.

“We’ve have an old cider mechanical press that’s only put to use a few times a year,” said Danielle Goldfinger, Director at Not Far From the Tree. “We’d love to see it get more use in community animation projects such as the one by the Friends of Orchard Park.”

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The final step–the most important, and certainly the most exciting–is the pressing. Andrew recruited Bryan, a parent from his children’s school, who had 20 years of cider making experience. Volunteers pressed the apples into roughly 25L of cider, heated it over the fire, and shared it with all who came.  They froze the leftovers to share at winter skate parties.

“The Farmer’s almanac promises a stormy and cold winter,” Andrew said in late October. “Bring it on!” They’ve likely run through the cider supply by now.

Photos Courtesy Andrew Macdonald.

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