LUSH Valley’s ‘Backyard Blend’ apple juice sales will provide much-needed funds

In a year that has, so far, been filled with challenges, Mother Nature has come through with a bumper apple crop. LUSH Valley Food Action Society is hoping to turn some of that fruit into much-needed funding.

LUSH Valley’s Fruit Tree Project mobilizes volunteers to harvest fruit from backyards, farms and even public areas, such as land owned by the Town of Comox. Once picked, one-third is given to the volunteers, one-third to the home- or land-owner (if they want it), and one-third is put into LUSH Valley’s ‘Good Food Box’ healthy food hampers, as well as to a number of community partners.

“It’s a win-win situation,” explains LUSH Valley’s Food Access Manager, James McKerricher. “The Fruit Tree Project ensures that good food doesn’t go to waste and people don’t go hungry. Picking fruit from the trees and cleaning up windfall also lessens incidents of wildlife encounters and helps keep our communities – and wildlife – safe.

“Not all of the apples are ‘Grade A’ and suitable for eating or cooking,” adds McKerricher. “So, for the past five years, we have taken all of the ‘Grade B’ apples, and some pears, and have had them pressed, pasteurized and packaged into 5-litre juice boxes by a local company called Pressing Matter. We sell our ‘Backyard Blend’ juice boxes for $20 each with net proceeds supporting our various community food security initiatives. Our goal this year is to produce at least 500 5-litre boxes of Backyard Blend. Of this, 250 boxes will be distributed to our community partners and their clients and 250 will be for sale as a general fundraiser. It is also important to note that fruit that is not suitable for consumption or juicing is given to local farmers to feed livestock or to compost – nothing is wasted.”

This year, not being able to sell the juice at various events due to the Pandemic could have affected the success of the Backyard Blend fundraiser, however, a number of local retailers have stepped up to help. The 100% pure apple juice, with no chemical additives, can now be purchased at several locations including:

  • Downtown Courtenay: The Butchers Block, Atlas Cafe and Blue Spruce Ice Cream
  • Courtenay rural: Seal Bay Farm (5628 Bates Road) Sat. 10 until 4
  • Comox: Benino Gelato (1740 Comox Ave.)
    Cumberland: Seeds Food Market (2733a Dunsmuir Ave.)
    Royston: Royston Roasting Coffee (3904 Island Hwy S)
    Black Creek: Shorewolf Farm (8376 North Island Hwy.) Sat. from 10 until 4
  • Black Creek Community Centre (2001 Black Creek Rd)

Individuals or business owners who would like to purchase juice in larger quantities may do so by calling the LUSH Valley temporary warehouse at 250-207-LUSH (5874). The juice boxes are shelf-stable until opened and then they need to be refrigerated.

In addition to purchasing Backyard Blend apple juice at the retail locations listed above, individuals can also support LUSH Valley by donating fruit picked off trees (not windfall). They will accept fruit donations from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, until October 9th. Their temporary warehouse is located in the Comox Valley Curling Rink on Headquarters Road. Please come to the side, not the front main entrance. (Do not leave fruit after hours.)

If you have 50-pounds or more of fruit, they would be happy to come and pick it up. Call 250-207-5874 (LUSH)

And, if you have trees that you need help harvesting, email HarvestLead@LUSHValley.org and LUSH Valley will arrange to have a volunteer team out to you as soon as possible.

Cash donations are also welcome.

Maurita Prato

Executive Director, LUSH Valley