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Home Harvest program sprouts legs by bringing Leftover(s) fresh produce to Calgarians

Freshly picked, packaged and ready to consume fruits and vegetables just became mobile.

Leftovers Foundation and Calgary Harvest teamed up to create the Home Harvest program, with the goal of providing healthy, local produce to Calgarians who need it and rescuing produce that would otherwise go to waste.

The Home Harvest program officially launched today on the Leftovers Foundation app, to connect Calgarians with bountiful produce growing in their yards with volunteers who assist in harvesting the fruits and vegetables.

“The food harvested in our backyards is arguably the healthiest, most sustainable food around. A lot of Calgarians have more rhubarb, apples or kale than they know what to do with,” Shelby Montgomery, vice president of programs at Leftovers, said.

Syma Habib cutting her rhubarb in her backyard. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Sophomore growing season

This is the second year of the program operating in Alberta.

The program’s soft launch last year was a “huge” success, Montgomery said.

Volunteers harvested 876 pounds of fruit and vegetables in Calgary and Edmonton.

“We had so much fun … We’re really stoked to have it grow and flourish and to get more growers and more volunteers on board this year,” Montgomery said.

By partnering with Calgary Harvest, Leftovers was able to grow the program beyond the capacity from the previous year.

Syma Habib signed up to be a grower for the Home Harvest program after hearing about it through her friends.

“I’m a really avid gardener and I really believe strongly in sharing your abundance,” Habib said.

“Even when I share my abundance with my neighbours, I still have more and there’s only so much you can freeze. So it just makes sense to me to to share my abundance with my community and the process that leftovers has created in partnership with rescue harvest makes it really simple.”

Syma Habib, a grower with the program, and Shelby Montgomery, VP of programs at Leftovers, sit on a table together with freshly picked rhubarb. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The program is an extension of the pre-existing work Leftovers does, meaning it did not require much additional funding.

“Previously, our app would move food from like a restaurant to the charity. The new program just allows us to move it from the home to the charity,” Montgomery said.

How to get involved

Anyone who is interested can participate in the program, without any kind of prerequisites or previous knowledge required.

“We’re always looking for more volunteers [and growers]. [With] the Home Harvest program there’s opportunities to volunteer with your friends. You’re in a backyard, you’re in the sun, it’s like the best way you could spend your time in the summer,” Montgomery said.

“We want to capture as much of Calgary’s urban orchard as we can. Grab that really beautiful food before it rots on the ground or ends up in the compost bin. We want to collect it while it’s fresh and beautiful and healthy.”

Each volunteer determines their own schedule and time commitment, then they are matched with nearby harvests and service agencies. The volunteers go to growers homes in to harvest the garden’s produce, then transport it to a charity.

The Leftovers Foundation’s app allows volunteers to pick their own availability. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

“I think that for this program, it’s really about numbers – the more growers [that] sign up, the more opportunity there are for volunteers to go out and do these picks,” Montgomery said.

“I think the sky’s the limit here. We’re really looking for as many growers as possible, as much diversity in produce as possible. Anything that’s growing, that’s fresh, that’s good quality, will accept and we’ll be really excited about.”

While at least half of the harvest are then donated to service agencies, such as the Calgary Community Fridge, Calgary Dream Centre, or Leftovers’ Anew upcycling program, the other half may be split between the grower and the volunteer. 

Community members who have excess produce growing in their gardens can fill out the Grower Sign-Up Form on Leftovers’ website and interested volunteers can sign up on the Leftovers app.