Green report // In a bad year for orchards, great gleaning

Share this:
December 3, 2012 // UPDATED 5:48 pm - December 27, 2012
By: Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas

The weird weather of spring 2012 — a bud-warming March followed by a hard frost in April — was nothing short of a disaster for some Minnesota apple growers, so this may come as a surprise: The Fruits of the City fruit-gleaning program that delivers apples and other tree fruits to area food shelves had its best year ever.

About 38,000 pounds of fruit collected from orchards and backyard fruit trees helped to feed the hungry across the Twin Cities. Jared Walhowe, who manages the program for The Minnesota Project, a local nonprofit focused on sustainable food and energy projects, said it was the most collected since the program launched in 2009 and about 7,000 pounds more than last year’s harvest.

“We brought apples to over 31 food shelves in the seven-county metro area, as well as three food banks,” Walhowe said.

He credited the success of this year’s gleaning to an increase in participation by area orchards and several large volunteer events. The program works by gleaning excess fruit that would otherwise go un-harvested and rot.

The Minnesota Project launched a second gleaning program, the Garden Gleaning Project, this year, and was able to deliver 21,000 pounds of fresh garden produce to five metro-area food shelves, including three in Minneapolis. Community gardeners and backyard growers contributed, and some area farmers markets gave their leftovers to the Garden Gleaning Project.

Walhowe said the Kingfield Farmers Market was one of their biggest contributors, donating almost 500 pounds of produce a week.

He judged it a good first year for the program, but said he planned to promote the program better and earlier for 2013. Many gardeners expressed interest in donating this harvest season but were months too late to plan additional plantings, so Walhowe aims to reach out to growers this winter, when they’re still perusing the seed catalogs.

“Plan to plant more,” was his message.

The Garden Gleaning Project helps to connect gardeners and food shelves, but Walhowe said growers who are interested in helping the hungry don’t need to go through a middleman.

Gardeners can donate directly to food shelves, but should contact those in the area to see which are equipped to handle and store fresh produce, since not all have adequate refrigerator space. Gardeners can also inquire about which fruits and vegetables are preferred for donations.

“With the Garden Gleaning Project, that’s what we’re really trying to facilitate, is the direct relationship,” Walhowe said.

Light up the recycling bin

It’s a sure sign the holiday season has arrived: The Recycle Your Holidays program was back as of Nov. 15, meaning area hardware stores are once again collecting your old, burned-out holiday lights for recycling.

The Recycling Association of Minnesota manages the program, collecting the strings of holiday lights and bringing them to area vocational centers, where they are dismantled so that the different materials can be properly recycled. Lights are collected through the end of January.

Drop-off locations in Downtown and Northeast include: Thrivent Financial, 625 4th Ave. S.; PricewaterhouseCoopers, 225 S. 6th St., Suite 1400; General Mills, 330 University Ave. S.E.; OceanTech, 1313 Winter St. N.E.; Logan Park, 690 13th Ave. N.E.; and Audubon Park, 1320 29th Ave. N.E.

For a map of all area drop-off locations, go to cleanenergyresourceteams.org and click on the “Act” tab.

City seeking input on climate action plan

What if Minneapolis set out to become the most energy-efficient city in the country?

An ambitious initiative like that could be one outcome of the Minneapolis Climate Action Plan, now under development. A draft of the document was posted on the city’s website at minneapolismn.gov/sustainability/climate, and city staff are seeking feedback on the strategies for sustainability outlined in the proposal.

The document proposes targets for reducing carbon emissions in 2015 and 2025 to blunt the impact of climate change. It also suggests other initiatives to improve the energy efficiency of residential, industrial and commercial buildings, boost the number of people biking, walking or using transit instead of driving and to reduce waste and raise recycling rates.

To share your opinion, complete an online survey (a link is included on the same Web page listed above) or attend a public open house on the climate action plan at 5:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m. Nov. 29 at the University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center, 2001 Plymouth Ave. N.