Hunter Everitt works at the Kootenay Mobile Press, a fee-for-use juice press operated by Creston’s Fields Forward Society. (Brian Lawrence photo)

Fields Forward Society adding value to Creston Valley cherries

‘Cosmetically unsuitable’ cherries juiced for sharing through Creston, Nelson, Cranbrook food banks

An initiative of the Fields Forward Society is underway, with over 13,000 pounds of cherries being sorted and juiced from Aug. 14-16.

Supported by Columbia Basin Trust, which funded the boxing and juicing, Fields Forward will donate the juice to east and west Kootenay food banks, paying it forward after H&R Orchards Ltd. donated the cherries, deemed “cosmetically unsuitable for export”, to the organization.

“They’re really good cherries,” said Fields Forward co-ordinator Elizabeth Quinn.

Ten volunteers from the Creston Valley Food Action Coalition’s Harvest Share program helped pack and sort the cherries, delivering them to Fields Forward’s Kootenay Mobile Press, set up at Truscott Farms.

Harvest Share co-ordinator Dennis Charles appreciated the chance for his organization to help out Fields Forward.

“This specifically is important because we’re giving the juice to people who don’t have the opportunity to get it and share in the bounty of the valley,” said Charles.

The social value is also important to H&R Orchards Ltd. owner Harbans Dhaliwal, who appreciated the chance to share part of this year’s crop, his best since he started farming cherries in 2006.

“They’re giving it away to people who need it,” said Harbans Dhaliwal. “We’re helping someone.”

The 13,000 pounds of cherries will make about 2,750 litres of cherry juice, which Fields Forward will distribute to about 2,250 low-income residents though the Creston Valley Gleaners Society Food Bank and Creston Refugee Committee, and Creston and East Shore Christmas hamper programs, as well as the Nelson Community Food Centre and Cranbrook Food Bank Society.

And juice is just the beginning. The “mash” (crushed cherry pulp) left behind after juicing is often taken to the landfill, but Fields Forward plans to purchase a dehydrator, allowing experimentation with turning mash into fruit leather.

The donation of space at Truscott’s and cherries from H&R were key to the project’s success, and Quinn also acknowledges the donations from other businesses, including the use of Just-A-Mere Organic Farm’s flat-deck truck for five days, and the loan of sorting bins from Morris Flowers.

“We depend on the generosity of those people, and we’re grateful for the support,” she said.

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