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League of Urban Canners – An Interesting Food Enterprise

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Touch the Soil News #246

About four years ago, on a whim, Sam Christy and some friends harvested and canned a couple of hundred pounds of unwanted apples and grapes growing in yards and over driveways in Somerville, Massachusetts. The experience was satisfactory and so in the Spring of 2012 about 12 people came together to put together a more organized approach to identifying fruit trees and maintaining, harvesting and canning the fruit.

The new group organized under the name of League of Urban Canners. They were somewhat surprised at how large of an impromptu fruit orchard existed close to their homes. The trees were disbursed on private and public lots.

The League of Urban Canners identifies fruit tree locations in their urban area. They have a database of over 300 fruit trees. (photo courtesy of League of Urban Canners)

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In short order, the League of Urban Canners had a database of over 300 fruit trees with many of them under agreements with land owners. The agreements include pruning, harvesting and acting as stewards over what they call the “shared urban orchard.”

Every year now they plan “work” groups that undertake all the various functions. The League of Urban Canners has arrived at a distribution plan that essentially goes like this: Since canning is the most time and labor intensive of the activities, the canners receive 70 percent of the canned fruit. The landowners receive 10 percent of the canned fruit. The pruners and harvesters receive 20 percent of the canned fruit.

Today, the League of Urban Canners harvests and cans about 4,000 lbs. of fruit each year from over a dozen different kinds of fruit trees. Members of the group share in organizational tasks as needed and most of the decisions are made by consensus.

Following is a short video on the League of Urban Canners.

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