Edmonton has a very interesting relationship to apples. They are all over our city – in our yards, in public parks, and lining our streets. Our unique environment means that we are limited in the kinds of fruit we can grow but tons of apples grow here – they just aren’t necessarily the kind you commonly find in the grocery store.
As a city as a whole, we don’t know how to use these apples. Sometimes it is because we don’t even know they exist or we don’t know how to identify them. Sometimes it is because they don’t taste great for fresh eating or because they take too much work to process. Most of the apples growing in Edmonton end up in the garbage or rotting on the trees.
That is why we started Prairie North Cider Co.
People often comment how great it is for us to get free fruit. We do appreciate every pound of fruit that gets sent our way, but that’s not why we do it. It would likely be just as cost effective for us to simply buy all our juice from B.C. than to do the time consuming and physically exhausting task of collecting and processing local urban fruit.
But our vision for Edmonton’s apples is bigger than that.
We use local apples because we want to teach people that good things grow here. We want to educate people on how to identify and use local fruit. We want to show people that prairie fruit can make amazing cider! We want you to learn how to make cider! We want to have a place where excess apples can be put to good use and become funds for our community.
We also need your help.
In the summer of 2018, I spent every day picking apples from the middle of July to the end of September. Nathan took a week off work and picked apples full time. We had a group of volunteers who helped us as often as they could. But even at that capacity, we can only pick 4 or 5 trees per day. We had a waiting list that never dropped below 50 houses – even when we asked people to only join the waiting list if they had a need for assistance in picking – it was growing faster than we could pick them!
We rescued 12,000 pounds of apples in 2018, but that was barely even scratching the surface of the amount that gets wasted every year.
This year, with the help of our community, we are hoping to collect 20,000 pounds of apples.
There is no way for us to pick all the apples in Edmonton ourselves. We have strategic plans to increase our own picking potential in the coming years. We recognize that not everyone has the capacity to pick apples for many different reasons and we hope to provide help to those who need it.
Rather than cleaning rotting apples up off your lawn, please pick them! Make as many delicious apple things as you can, host an apple picking party, share them with your neighbours, and if you still have some leftover then bring them to us. We will make them into cider and give $1 per litre back to community non-profits. By offering to donate a portion of the profits from our ciders, we hope people begin to recognize the value in our local apples.
For the long term business viability, we have planted our own orchard and have been collecting some of the best varieties of fruit we have found in Alberta. We will supplement with juice from British Columbia as we need to. We will keep accepting rescued fruit that won’t otherwise be used. But if our goals are successful, hopefully in ten years from now, there won’t be as much fruit left for us in Edmonton because it will be used directly in the community!
If you have extra fruit that you can’t use, please donate it to our Backyard Harvest.