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Bayfield to harvest fruit for food justice and bear safety

Community event to glean trees around downtown Saturday
Community members sort through apples at Durango’s Apple Days Festival in 2012. Like Durango, Bayfield is holding its own Fruit Community Harvest event for the first time Saturday.

Pine River Valley residents will get their fill of fruit Saturday during Bayfield’s first ever Fruit Community Harvest.

The event features quintessential autumn activities, like tree gleaning, cider-making demonstrations and tips for saving fruit for the winter. It’s about more than just fruit and fun – the harvest helps keep bears out of town, reduces food waste and invigorates community engagement.

“One of the things is just highlighting all the excess fruit and veggies that are in the area and ... helping folks understand that we have some tools to connect them with that excess,” said Rachel Landis, director of the Good Food Collective, a nonprofit focused on food security and food justice.

Community members will gather at 9 a.m. at Eagle Park for a morning of gleaning that is forecast to be chilly, but sunny. Community members will walk around Bayfield and pick fruit – which will be gathered by a horse-drawn carriage roaming around town. More activities will take place back at Eagle Park until 4 p.m., like dehydrating and fermenting demonstrations and free food.

Not only is the event meant to be a fun family gathering, it helps adjust food security for families that don’t have as much access to fruit and veggies, Landis said. For the collective, the other main goal is reducing food waste.

In the United States, between 30% and 40% of food is wasted, according to the USDA. In 2010, retail operations and consumers wasted 133 billion pounds of food, which would equal about 218,000 large passenger airplanes.

Bears are also attracted to domestic fruits, and human-bear conflicts can lead to relocation or fatalities for bears, and property damage and safety risks for humans.

“Rather than change their own behavior, people often want wild animals to change their behavior or be moved,” said Tom Beck, Colorado Division of Wildlife black bear researcher, in a 2003 Q&A.

Bears have been in the area for thousands of years, and their natural diet consists of native fruits, seeds and nuts. Bears have limited time to find enough high-energy food for their long, food-less hibernation period – which explains why they are attracted to calorie-dense human food when natural foods are scarce, Beck said.

Like trash, domestic fruit trees, which are non-native to the area, are not part of their regular diet, said Bryan Peterson, executive director of Bear Smart Durango.

Bears are also highly intelligent and have a long memory for foraging areas. That means when they find a human food source, and don’t experience a negative consequence while there, they remember that spot and will likely return.

“A lot of this is getting residents to think about this. Domestic fruit is a bear attractant. If you don’t want bears around, then perhaps make sure you’re removing that food source,” Peterson said.

The event also created more Durango-Bayfield partnerships and resource-sharing opportunities among organizations.

For example, The Wolverine Academy, a group of Bayfield students working with Pine River Shares, spread out around town last week to track down trees and get permission to harvest their fruit. The Good Food Collective had the mapping tools to create tree-tracking maps for participants.

Other sponsors or organizers include the town of Bayfield, the Pine River Garden Club, Green Thumb Daddy and Bear Smart.

The Good Food Collective, which hosts Durango’s Apple Days Festival, hasn’t really worked in the Bayfield area before organizing the harvest, Landis said. Event organizers could bring a similar event to Bayfield for the first time because of grants, like the USDA Durango Regional Food Recovery grant, she said.

Not only are organizers bringing a new event to Bayfield, but they are creating a sustainable infrastructure so fruit gleaning efforts, food waste reduction and human-bear conflict reduction can continue into the future, she said.

Landis said she’s excited for the event, especially experiencing a harvest through the “flavor and lens of Bayfield.”

“We do this a lot in Durango, but (we’re) seeing what Bayfield brings to the table,” she said.

smullane@durangoherald.com

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