Birmingham FOE member, Nigel Baker, has teamed up with the woman behind ‘Edible Erdington’, Eleanor Hoad, to launch Urban Harvest – the UK’s first scheme to turn surplus garden fruit into secondary produce as a commercial venture.
Urban Harvest is set up as a not-for-profit social enterprise that aims to show how a business can be economically viable whilst still retaining core environmental and social principles.
Urban Harvest grew from a project called ‘Prepare’, run by Eleanor as Artist in Residence in Erdington for Birmingham City Council. After noticing how much fruit goes to waste in the city’s gardens, Eleanor began to view Birmingham as a scattered orchard. She knocked on doors and offered to harvest surplus fruit with a group of volunteers. Erdington residents were very receptive to the idea, with many people feeling guilty about all their fruit going to waste every year. She made a fruit press, turning fruit into fresh juice, as well as giving it away as pickles, jams, dried fruit or fresh at a Kingstanding school and events in Erdington.
Eleanor’s project showed just how much surplus fruit there was in Birmingham and that people were enthusiastic to support a scheme that stopped it going to waste. After BFOE’s Edible Birmingham event last October, Nigel and Eleanor discussed how to turn the Prepare project into an independently viable city-wide project. They reasoned that by simply offering the service of harvesting, clearing up and taking away surplus fruit, people would be happy to make their excess fruit available.
Most of the fruit collected will, of course, be apples and pears, but they also intend to harvest damsons and plums. Initially, they will be using Pershore College’s juicing and bottling facilities, but aim to set up their own artisan juicing and bottling facility in Birmingham after the first season. They will also be making fruit-based preserves such as jams and chutneys, and next year hope to begin making Birmingham’s first home-grown cider!
They particularly want to hear from fruit tree owners who would be interested in buying back apple juice and other products, enabling them to proudly proclaim that they are drinking juice from their very own trees.
To find out more about Urban Harvest go to www.urbanharvestbham.org