When the crabapples starting dropping off the trees in town I thought to myself – Don’t panic. There is no way that they can be ready. It is two weeks ahead of last year, which was two weeks ahead of the year before. But then the heat set in and there was no doubt. The fruit was ready to harvest.
In a scramble we recruited a couple of talented chef friends, a partner in crime, a couple of summer students and community members willing to pick for cash. In a matter of days the kitchen at the Pemberton Community Centre smelled like Grandma’s kitchen from the 1950’s as our shoes stuck to the sticky floor and we bought every store in town out of canning supplies.
Now, for those of you who don’t know about this project, it all came about for Stewardship Pemberton as a result of human-bear conflict. Bears are attracted to the ruby red fruit in the late summer/early fall, as they do some stockpiling of their own for the winter. The problem is, these trees are right downtown, surrounded by the daycare, medical centre, school, skate park, community centre, walking paths. Not a great place for bears to hang out. Bears that frequent high use areas and become conditioned to accessing human food are at higher risk of being killed due to human-bear conflict. The trees are on Village of Pemberton property, planted decades ago in honour and memory of local community members. Cutting them down was not in the cards, despite the number of bears killed over the years in relation to the food source.
Stewardship Pemberton took the opportunity to find a solution. What started off as a few kids in my home kitchen after school morphed into a community canning project of epic scale. This year we harvested over 2000 lbs of fruit off the trees. We processed 1500 lbs, turning them into delicious sauce and jelly. The by-product went to Ice Cap Organics pigs. 500 lbs went to community members who wanted to make jelly, picked crabapples, sauce, gin and liquor at home. We employed 5 people during the course of the project, two of them young summer students now confident they could can food for an army. We helped someone in need earn a bit of pocket money. We had a few people learn new canning tricks as they helped us in the kitchen. 40 kids came through the kitchen and learned about the project.
At the end of the day, it was a whirlwind of crazy successes. Exhausted, we joked about marketing crabapple facials and how funny it would be to have mounted a camera and recorded the 10 day crab-a-thon, sped up to a 1 minute micro clip, complete with funky aprons and head scarfs. Oh the glamour of it all.
Now we need to find a retail outlet as we have 1650 jars of jelly and sauce waiting to make it’s way home with you. We can sell by the case – they make great gifts for Christmas, clients, housewarming parties, etc.
Come find us at the Pemberton Farmers Market ..starting as soon as I can get the stick off my shoes! Proceeds from this years sale go towards next years project. The back of the tag tells the story…in not as many words.
Love your neighBEARS and buy our product!
Thanks to Crystal Brown Photography for these great shots!