A growing movement that aims to make better use of neglected local fruit trees such as apples, pears and plums by organising volunteers to harvest the fruit.
While people have been picking for centuries, the current idea, under the umbrella name of Abundance, seems to have begun to coalesce around 2007. By 2010 there were many grassroots projects, mostly called Abundance (eg. Abundance London, Abundance Manchester, West Ealing Abundance) or Urban Harvest (eg. Leeds Urban Harvest, Haringey). Other groups have slightly different names (eg. Local Fruit Harvesters: Kensal to Kilburn, St John’s Villas Pears) but all have broadly the same aims: to harvest surplus fruit and prevent waste.
In 2010 the groups began to become more aware of one another. For instance, in London the various groups assemble twice a year to exchange expertise and encouragement. There are at least 30 groups nationally, some more organised and formalised than others.
The precise nature of each local project depends on the strengths and interests of local organisers. For instance Abundance London has strong links with local schools, organising class picking trips. West Ealing Abundance has an expertise in jam-making; Haringey Urban Harvest in foraging, etc.
Each year hundreds of fruit trees go unpicked, on both public and private land, either because people don’t notice them, may not be physically able to harvest them or there are just too many fruits at one time. Abundance counters this waste by picking the fruit and redistributing the surplus to the community on a non-profit basis - to community cafes, nurseries, Surestarts and individuals.
Fruit can also be juiced to make jams, chutneys and preserves, some of which can be sold on as part of a social enterprise. Abundance contines through the seasonal cycle with planting and pruning workshops.
Volunteers who take part have the pleasure of eating fresh, ripe fruit from the tree, finding out more about urban food growing and working alongside enthusiastic people of all ages. Most activity obviously takes place when the fruit is ready to harvest, generally between August and the end of October.
Collectively, Abundance groups in the UK won the Observer Ethical Award for Best Grassroots Project in 2010.
Abundance (Grow Sheffield)
This project has been running for several years with funding from local organisations as part of the Grow Sheffield network of individuals and community groups whose aim is primarily to promote urban organic food growing.
A hybrid between a community orchard and an Abundance project, Cardiff Orchard (a coalition between Transition Cardiff and FCFCG in Wales) has provided 60 fruit trees for community groups across the city to encourage fruit growing and is undertaking a mapping project of fruit and nut trees in Cardiff.
Leeds Urban Harvest
Leeds Urban Harvest is a voluntary run project that collects and distributes soft fruits that grow unharvested around the city. Fruit is distributed to groups, volunteers and the local community. Money raised from sales of fruit or products made with the fruit is put back into the project to help with running costs. The group is also creating a detailed reference map of Leeds with location and tree information for future harvests.
Located mainly in South Manchester, this group distributes harvested fruit to local groups and communities. It also collects and distributes surplus vegetables from allotments and has started its own Abundance allotment to grow food to donate to local groups.
Set up to make use of fruit trees in the city, either growing wild or in people's garden, in order to prevent the fruit simply rotting away or going in the bin. The group aims to harvest this abundant food and redistribute it to local charities as a way of highlighting the social and health benefits of growing local, seasonal, and organic food. They also emphasise the fun and exercise benefits of harvesting the fruit.
Based in North London, this project aims to harvest and redistribute unwanted fruit, and go on foraging walks to learn about the abundance of edible plants around us. It has an an apple press to take to schools and community events to encourage people to use windfalls that would otherwise be left to rot. There are also other Abundance projects in the London area in Brixton and West Ealing.
Operating in the North of Trafford (Old Trafford, Stretford and Urmston) in Manchester, this group distributes unwanted surplus fruit to local groups and communities. Abundance Trafford can also collect and distribute surplus vegetables from allotments if needed. The group was set up in 2010, so is relatively new and is keen for more local people to get involved in picking and distributing fruit.
The Grow Sheffield Abundance Group have created a useful handbook. Though it concentrates on their experience in Sheffield, the book has hints and tips which should be useful for other groups or those thinking about starting an abundance group in their own community or city.
Free to view online versions are available: A PDF online viewing version and a PDF Booklet version, which has been formatted for printing out and putting together as a booklet. Go to the Grow Sheffield website for more details and how to make a donation to help cover the costs of producing the handbook.
(Additional material thanks to Karen Liebrich)