This report is to summarise activity in the Kirkby Fruit Pickers (KFP) project from April 2013 to date. We were grateful for financial support from Kirkbymoorside Town Council and The Kirkby Foundation this year, so the format of this report and the criteria used follow those in the original applications for funding that we made to those bodies.
The two main aims of the project were (1) to use volunteers to pick fruit that would otherwise go to waste in people’s gardens and find a good use for it locally, and (2) to benefit local people, the town and the wider environment.
2.1 Volunteers and what we did
A total of 26 volunteers took part, of all ages from four to 84. Seventeen of them were involved in fruit picking (18 sessions), and volunteers also took part in juicing and bottling (9 sessions), as well as labelling and bottle-washing. Volunteers also made jam, cordials, chutneys, purees, jellies, fruit vinegar and Christmas gift packs, and helped to run our Christmas market stall; some also worked on webpages, social media, the town blog, writing press releases and liaising with local community groups and with other fruit-related groups and organisations nationally.
Volunteers said that they enjoyed taking part and found it rewarding and satisfying.
2.2 Who else benefited:
A total of nine people delivered their own apples for juicing, amounting to 20 deliveries of self-picked fruit. There were also a further ten tree-owners whose fruit was picked by our volunteers – often more than one tree and on several occasions. In exchange, tree-owners received 151bottles of free juice in all, as well as a small amount (a few boxes) of good quality picked apples. Those tree-owners who were spoken to during picks were very positive about the project, appreciative of the juice, and glad to be spared the annoyance of dealing with large amounts of surplus fruit. One tree owner was an elderly and infirm lady who could not have picked her own fruit, and in that case we were happy to offer the same rate of exchange that we offered to able-bodied people delivering their own (i.e. 1 bottle of juice per 8kg of apples, as opposed to 12-16kg of apples as our standard rate when we were doing the picking).
2.2.2 Local community projects
We hoped that other community groups might take advantage of our Community Juicing Day, but in the event it was attended only by individuals (see below under 2.3.10). We have made donations of juice to other groups: 12 bottles to the Methodists’ Dinner Club, and 4 bottles to the primary school for raffle prizes. We have also contributed £91 towards the production of the Shopping Guide this year (i.e. printing costs to date). Local groups and projects will also benefit from donations that we will make to them out of our profits as soon as appropriate systems are in place (see below: 2.5, bullet-point 2), and we are also committed to finding ways of co-working on picking/juicing with other groups to help them to fundraise in the future (see below: 2.5, bullet-point 3).
2.2.3 The town and wider environment
We hope that some of our juice was bought instead of other imported juice, which would reduce food miles; although people may of course just buy it for its quality and the fact that it is made by a local community project.
We have had many expressions of support and enthusiasm from local people, especially in terms of what we do being based on generosity, saving waste, helping one another, producing a quality product, and in general creating a project that is unique to Kirkby and that people can feel proud of.
We have been greatly helped by The Summit Bakery and Kirkby News being willing to sell our juice, and we are happy to learn from Jane Thomas at the Bakery that customers coming in for the juice have often paused to chat about it and then bought other things as well.
Our Christmas Market stall was extremely successful, especially our gift-packs (‘Not Just A Gift From Kirkbymoorside – A Gift To Kirkbymoorside as well!’), which people were often buying for family and friends in other parts of the country.
2.3 How our achievements related to our plans
Our aim for 2013-14 was to produce 500 bottles of juice – in fact, we processed almost two tonnes of apples and made over 1400 bottles. This was partly because it was a glut year for apples; we also found that our new (grant-funded) equipment was much more efficient and enabled us to process much more quickly and with an extraction rate that was about 30% better than before.
2.3.1 We had intended to set up a bottle deposit scheme, but this proved problematic to implement and we doubted that a 20p deposit would make much difference to whether or not people returned a bottle (and a larger deposit would make the juice too expensive). In the end, we decided to add a paper collar to each bottle, carrying a message that each bottle returned would mean another 40p (the current cost of a bottle) could be donated to local good causes. This has proved very successful, producing a return rate of around 30%, which we understand is unusually high for a deposit scheme.
2.3.2 The History Group has been approached with regard to a co-operative project, and this is still being discussed.
2.3.3 We have purchased 20 rootstocks and have advertised on the Kirkby town blog to offer a grafting service, especially if anyone has any unusual and/or local varieties that they would like propagated. The grafted trees will be grown on by a KFP volunteer for a year to ensure the graft has taken before being offered back to the original tree owner or to others in the town for a nominal price of around £3 to cover costs. These grafted trees will be suitable for growing in small spaces such as patios or against fences so provide an opportunity for almost anyone to grow their own fruit.
2.3.4 We have published several items on the town blog about fruit-related topics such as unusual local varieties and tree management – we will continue to develop this. In addition we liaised with Kirkby Primary School over a donation of fruit trees from our parent organisation, Kirkbymoorside Environment Group, and were able to offer advice about varieties, rootstocks and planting: three cordons and a dwarf tree will be planted by the Scouts very shortly (enabling them to get their tree-planting badge at the same time!)
2.3.5 We succeeded in having picking and juicing sessions on a mixture of weekdays and weekends, as planned, although the weather made it impossible to have fixed days for picking.
2.3.6 We made a range of products using fruit other than apples, in cordials, jams, chutneys and vinegars. We used rhubarb, elderflower, elderberry, gooseberry, damson, wild strawberry, blackberry, blackcurrant and redcurrant, as well as herbs such as thyme and sage. The cordials were mostly made and sold in the summer, and also – along with the other products – at the Christmas Market.
2.3.7 We would still like to work with other organisations to develop community events on a fruit theme, but have not made specific progress on that goal this year.
2.3.8 We have been in contact with the Orchards of Husthwaite project to exchange news and ask their advice, and we have also developed links with the Northern Fruit Group. An unexpected occurrence was that we were contacted by the Camphill Trust who, after a conversation with us, are now considering setting up a similar project in Malton.
2.3.9 We had intended to hold an open event in Spring 2013, but when the time came it did not feel appropriate – the weather was miserable, the blossom was late, and ripe fruit seemed an awfully long way off.
2.3.10 We succeeded in holding a Community Juicing Day, which was busy and successful. Nine people brought a total of 100kg of apples, which we were able to mix with complementary varieties that we had available, so that people could go home with a well-flavoured juice (50L in all).
2.4. Summary financial position
Income Expenditure Grants £2,384 £2,060 Note 1 Project £1,732 £649 Note 2 Total £4,116 £2,709
Grants were received of £1000 from the Town Council and £1,384 from the Kirkby Foundation.
Grant expenditure to date of £2,060 includes the cost of the juicing equipment at £1,526, the first batch of bottles at £360.96 and insurance at £163. The grant monies remaining will be utilised to purchase additional equipment.
The primary income source was from juice sales with contributions from sales of gift packs, preserves and cordials. A total of 1,429 bottles of juice were produced of which 730 remain in stock.
The largest additional expenditure item was £453 for additional bottles. There were also volunteer expenses of £106: these mostly related to mileage/transport, as recorded in the project’s activity records; volunteers were also reimbursed for ingredients that they had bought to make preserves for sale, with receipts relating to this being kept on file.
The surplus generated from project activity is currently £1,083. This surplus will increase as the bottles in stock are sold ahead of the new apple season.
We will need to give careful consideration to how much of a reserve we need to hold to ensure that the project remains self-supporting and sustainable (particularly as this was an exceptionally productive year), giving due thought to the need to replace equipment in the future. Our intention continues to be to pass on any surplus profits to groups, causes and events that will be of benefit to people in and around Kirkbymoorside.
2.5 The future
We now have in place a system of regular (monthly or bi-monthly) meetings, or ‘Fruit Forums’, which are open to anyone participating in the project. In the space before the next picking season begins, we plan to use these Forums to address a number of key organisational issues to support the development of the project. These include:
- Clearer financial accounting systems that are open to public scrutiny, possibly via our website
- Establishing a well-publicised system enabling other community groups and projects to request financial support from us. Again, information about what we have donated, and to whom, will be available to anyone via our website.
- Involving other community groups and projects in co-working with us, to help them to fundraise directly for themselves by receiving a proportion of the profits from the sale of juice.
- Enhanced skill-sharing, so that volunteers can gain expertise in different areas of the project, making the project more resilient to changes in personnel, whilst also allowing volunteers to develop their skills.
- Looking at how to channel a greater proportion of the benefits of what we do, towards those people who cannot afford to buy juice at £2.50 per bottle.
- A second Community Juicing Day, so that there is one for early apple varieties and one for late ones.
- We will continue to extend the range of what we produce. We are currently waiting for our first batch of cider vinegar to mature, which we hope will be of a good quality to sell – either as it is, or else made into fruit vinegars.
We have had a much busier year than we anticipated, and are extremely pleased with how much we have achieved. We hope that the project will continue to develop so that we can make a growing contribution to our community, and we are grateful to those bodies that awarded us grants to help make it all possible.
………………………………… Erica Rose,
Kirkby Fruit Pickers
Kirkbymoorside Environment Group
………………………………… June Emerson
Chair, Kirkbymoorside Environment Group
20th February 2014