Julie Forster (left) and Caitlyn Bennett have started a Harvest Hut in Oliver, where anyone can bring excess produce to share, or take what they need. (Dan Walton / Aberdeen Publishing)
By Dan Walton
For neighbours who like sharing the fruits of their labour with one another, there’s the Harvest Hut in Oliver – offering up free, fresh food every Monday around supper time.
“It’s about sharing what we’ve got because we live in a very plentiful region,” says coordinator Julie Forster. “And most people who grow food have more than they need, while there are other people who can’t grow it for a variety of reasons.”
Forster said the Hut is used by a variety of hungry customers – from families to seniors to seasonal workers. She said a group of pickers from Mexico and Spain have been coming back three weeks in a row; they make large meals together and take turns cooking.
The Harvest Hut operates under a canopy in the parking lot property on Main Street, near the bottom of the wooden staircase. Organizers are hoping to have a more permanent structure in place later in the year.
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The booth is stocked with fresh local produce, which is donated by generous gardeners or grown in the downtown planters. It began at the end of May, and each week the bounties seem to be growing.
“Just looking at it, this is the biggest variety we’ve had, and we said the same thing last week, so it’s definitely growing,” coordinator Caitlyn Bennett said on Monday night. “This is the most stuff I think we’ve had so far.”
Some people stop by the Hut to donate food, others to collect food, and some do both. It’s a social environment when the Hut opens at 5 p.m., as camaraderie ensues between donors, organizers and hungry customers. Last week, there were 11 people who made donations and about 40 who enjoyed it.
“The momentum is building, it’s exciting to see,” Forster said.
With apricots in season, there was lots of orange in this week’s selection.
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Looking for more apricot recipes?
Then keep an eye on the Oliver Food Network’s Facebook page, where Bennett will be sharing a video about making apricot jam (after she gets taught by her grandma and grandma’s neighbour).
The project is part of the Food Secure Oliver, a 10-year plan that focuses on increasing food security locally.
“It’s about connecting local food with local people, and to increase food literacy,” Bennett says. “We want people to think about how many more ways there are to prepare food than just the finished products available at the grocery store.”
By offering so many of the herbs that grow in the planters along Main Street, Food Secure Oliver demonstrates how little space is needed for anybody to grow food.
“We’re also trying to get people to talk to their neighbours and learn more about the stuff that’s growing in our backyards,” Forster says.
The Hut runs every Monday in the summer months from 5 to 8 p.m.