Jason Garlough: Making good use of existing resources is something that a lot of people do when they’re trying to act sustainably, right.
Katrina Siks: Well, Hidden Harvest Ottawa picks and shares fruits and nuts that would otherwise go to waste around the city.
Jason Garlough: So when setting up Hidden harvest Ottawa we made a business plan to see if this was feasible and to research and compare, contrast of what the other groups are doing around Canada.
Katrina Siks: So our initial goal was to register 365 trees to obtain permission to harvest from that many trees, one tree a day.
Jason Garlough: One of our first conversations with the city forestry department we told them about our goals and objectives and they thought it was really great that the food bank was interested in helping us make better use of some of the city trees. So not only they giving us permission to harvest a few trees they also gave us through the Open Data Ottawa program access to their city tree database. So we opened it up we were excited when they released it, opened up the information, I did a search and there were 4 000 potential food-bearing trees and so that sort of blew our goal of a tree a day sort of out the water.
Katrina Siks: Completely out of the water, we’re in a new whole scale now when we realized how many are out there.
Jason Garlough: The community knowledge that we found through Open Data Ottawa was really useful.
Katrina Siks: We looked at the addresses for all the trees and mapped them visually. We can compare them with where parkland is and where private properties are and we can contrast that with where our volunteers are located, and where we have connections with food banks agencies as well. So where we have these critical masses of trees, volunteers and community food bank relations, that’s where we want to put our equipment so that’s helps us operate and be more efficient. We just took this data and infused it into our business plan. The demand for food in our city is increasing, the price of food is increasing, the pressure on families to feed their kids fresh food is tremendous.
Jason Garlough: When we think of how easy it is for us to get an apple at the grocery store for me it’s easier for me to go and buy that apple to pay 25 cents, to receive that apple than it is for me to get the apple from the neighbour three doors down.
Katrina Siks: There is a huge disconnect right now between that food getting squished on the sidewalk becoming a nuisance and people and people who need food, we’re just trying to bridge the gap and bring those two together. I think once we accessed Open Data Ottawa tree information we really wanted to share it with the rest of the community so we’ve made all the public information free to access and folks can take a look at it, click on it, zoom in to where they live and see the trees and we’ve enabled that map with the ability to pop-up the name of the tree and how big it is. On the internet they can Google that and figure out a little bit more information, how do I do this or how do I use it or they can come out and join a harvest with us and we’ll introduce that fruit or nut to them. So every time we have the opportunity to bring fresh food into a community food bank, for example showing up with a basket of fresh cherries and being able to offer that to people who may never have tried cherries before even though they’re growing two streets away, the smile and the efficiency that that food is received with, it’s just incredibly rewarding to know that these people are getting access to this fresh food.
Jason Garlough: And that’s the power of community knowledge.