Fruit swap program a go

Bear Aware wants to reduce bear attractants throughout the valley with the second annual Fruit Swap program.

Columbia Valley residents hoping for a more fruitful way to deter bears from their communitiy over the next couple of months are in luck. The 2nd annual Columbia Valley Fruit Swap program is underway and anyone who has a fruit tree — or who wishes they had one — are encouraged to get involved.

From August through to October, hundreds of fruit trees in the valley are ripening with fruit falling to the ground. As fruit is an ideal food source for foraging bears, local Bear Aware community co-ordinator Crystal Leonard wants to see the fruit picked before it becomes a problem. The way the swap works is those people who have fruit trees on their property but aren’t in the habit of picking them — whether due to inaccessibility issues or they just don’t feel the need — are ask to contact Leonard with the type(s) of tree and how many. Additionally, anyone wishing to acquire handpicked fruit, for baking purposes or jams for example, are also asked to contact Leonard with what kind of fruit they want.

Leonard’s job is then to match fruit pickers with fruit tree owners and create a mutually beneficial relationship that stands to benefit the entire community as a whole.

Last year was the first time Leonard organized the fruit swap, and she said it attracted about 20 to 30 pickers and almost as many tree offers. But this year she’s hoping for a much bigger involvement.

“The challenge was matching those who want a certain type of fruit with those who have the appropriate fruit tree,” she said.

While the majority of fruit trees called in last year were regular apples and crabapples, there were also pears and even apricots. Cherries were also popular, but they’re almost at the end of their season by now, depending the type of cherry, Leonard said.

Underway since August 1, the fruit swap happens on a first come first serve basis and most of the people involved so far this year were involved last year.

“One thing I noticed last year is people called about their fruit trees and expected someone to come out right then and pick their fruit tree,” said Leonard. “I’m trying to emphasize that it’s not guaranteed; it’s depending on the fruit and the type of fruit and what kind of quality it is too.”

Although pickers should be prepared to use their own ladder, sometimes fruit tree owners will have a ladder handy that can be used while some trees don’t need a ladder and the fruit can be picked from the ground. Leonard is looking to acquire an apple press in early September that will be available to fruit swap participants for making their own fresh apple juice.

The fruit swap runs to October 15. For more information or to get involved, call Leonard at 250-688-0561 or email