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Time is ripe for harvesting fruit tree surpluses

by: ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Woodstock resident Mark Ripkey is on the board of the nonprofit Association of Home Businesses, locally - and he is also a Portland Fruit Tree Project tree scout for the Woodstock, Reed, and Eastmoreland neighborhoods. He helps find fruit and nut trees whose owners might want help with harvesting, and tree-care information.Mark Ripkey grew up in Iowa, working on farms and helping his parents with their large vegetable garden.

Eight years ago he moved to the Woodstock neighborhood – and began seeing fruit trees dropping globes and rounds of ripe fruit that just remained on the ground to rot.

“The neighbor behind my house planted several fruit trees, and across the street the neighbor has more pears than they can use,” remarks Ripkey.

When he realized that the fruit was more than he and the neighbors could consume, and even more than he was able to can or otherwise preserve, he did an Internet search, looking for a way to keep all this fruit from going to waste.

Ripkey found a website for the Portland Fruit Tree Project, a non-profit that coordinates groups of volunteers to pick fruit to make it available to families in need.

Avoiding waste and making food available for local food banks and kitchens appealed to Ripkey, so he signed up to become a Portland Fruit Tree Project “volunteer tree scout” for the Woodstock, Eastmoreland, and Reed neighborhoods. He works with tree owners to assess ripeness, site accessibility, and scheduling of harvests.

On August 7th, Ripkey attended the monthly meeting of the Woodstock Neighborhood Association and told of his enthusiasm for the Portland Fruit Tree Project.

“If you have a fruit tree that has more than you can use,” he explained, “You can register the tree or trees with the Portland Fruit Tree Project. “A tree scout will come out to confirm which tree it is, and then you call two weeks before the tree is ready to harvest. When it’s ready, harvesting volunteers arrive with equipment, such as pickers and baskets. The fruit that is donated is weighed, and you [the homeowner] get a tax receipt because the Fruit Tree Project is a 501c3 nonprofit.”

Ripkey informed the group that in 2012 there were 88 harvestings, involving 698 volunteers picking 890 trees, harvesting a total of 66,000 pounds for the year. “50% of the harvested fruit is donated to local food banks and kitchens, 20-30% goes to the homeowner, and the rest goes to harvesting volunteers.” The homeowner can help with harvesting if possible, and if not, volunteers do it all.

Ripkey says that other benefits of registering a tree or trees is that the homeowner can take part in pruning classes, as well as fruit-preservation classes – canning, drying, freezing. And if the pruning class is at your house, you not only learn about pruning, you also have the opportunity to get your trees pruned! Both pruning and food preservation classes are also open to the public but pre-registration is required.

The Portland Fruit Tree Project website (www.portlandfruit.org) has information about how to get involved as a volunteer, how to get your tree(s) picked, and how to sign up for pruning and fruit-preservation classes. It also includes an explanation of the different kinds of harvesting parties.

Portland Fruit Tree Project Coordinator Bob Hatton has written an informative “Beginners Guide to Ripening, Harvesting and Tree Care, for Fruiting Vines, Nuts, and Other Common Tree Fruit”. It can be found online at: HYPERLINK "www.portlandfruit.org/fruit-tree-care" www.portlandfruit.org/fruit-tree-care For questions, or to report fruit ripeness, call 503/284-6106 – or e-mail: HYPERLINK "mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..