Claire Paradis

Harvesting Nakusp’s autumn bounty

A new group in Nakusp aims at connecting fruit and vegetable growers with locals.

Networking has been a buzzword in the business world for some time now but in Nakusp it is taking on a whole new meaning. A new initiative The Root & Branch Harvest has taken off this year connecting those who have fruits and vegetables to harvest with those who would like to harvest, eat or otherwise use them.

Claire Paradis is this year’s coordinator of the Root & Branch Harvest. She and a friend got talking about this idea last year and held a rooting meeting where 14 people showed up. From there, Paradis connected with New Denver’s harvest chair, Bree Lillies, who is also the Bear Aware program coordinator. A seven-person steering committee was established, with Paradis being one of them.

Next, funding had to be secured for this initiative and the Columbia Basin Trust’s (CBT) Community Initiatives allowed Paradis and the rest of the committee to bring their idea forward for the CBT vote in April. Those funds were generously supplemented by the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s (RDCK) Paul Peterson and by Columbia Power.

Earlier this year, Paradis withdrew from the steering committee so she could apply for the position of coordinator. She went through two rounds of interviews in an “above-board process” and started the job on July 4. It will end around the end of October, depending on the harvest.

“It was very early year for a lot of things in terms of the harvest especially the cherries, which we didn’t even get around to doing,” Paradis said.

Paradis adds, “Most people have enough of whatever they’ve got so this program would be beneficial for everyone, especially the elderly with huge, booming trees.”

Another positive aspect of this initiative is keeping the bear population at bay by removing temptation as well as supplying livestock owners with the fruits and vegetables they require (apples for horses, food for pigs, etc). Paradis relishes meeting people in town and discovering local resources and ways to make this town and the Arrow Lakes, once a fruit and vegetable producer that would rival the current production of the Okanagan, autonomous in terms of food supply. Exploring new parts of town and building a strong community have been the high points of her experience so far.

Paradis stated the challenges noted so far have been those associated with “figuring stuff out, as [they] are in their first year.” She added they have plenty of room to grow from all points of view the group is looking to connect with schools and get kids involved to teach them how to preserve fruits and vegetables. They are working with the fire hall’s kitchen with a joint goal to promote food security in the area.

Paradis noted, “Older trees are not pruned or taken care of,” and as such, she is hoping to put on some workshops later this year to educate people in pruning techniques so more trees can be brought up properly for next year’s harvest. She also wants to put together a team of pruners who would do it for those who cannot take this task on themselves. Lastly, she is hoping to put together a map of the trees and start earlier next year with the networking between all the parties involved.

Paradis said, “This is a really worthwhile endeavor to get people connected, to keep skills alive and use local resources efficiently.” When asked if this would work as a good solution for the 100-mile diet, a concept that was making the rounds some years ago as a central concept in the sharing economy, Paradis replied, “It could be the 100-meter diet, depending on where you are.”

The Root & Branch Harvest organization would like to ask those with fruit-bearing trees they would like to have harvested to contact the coordinator at 250-265-7173 or email rootandbranchharvest@gmail.com.