Job Title: Volunteer Director, Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton
Why She’s Top 40: She’s helping to make sure that locally grown food doesn’t go to waste.
Key To Success: “Finding a way to bring people with unique skills together to work on a common project.”
When asked if she has anything else to add at the end of her interview, Amy Beaith-Johnson can’t think of a thing to say. It isn’t until later that she recalls she’s been invited to the 2012 Slow Foods Terra Madre world meeting in Turin, Italy. Held every other year since 2004, it’s a food fair like no other. It brings together artisans and small-scale farmers from around the world who share a passion for producing environmentally sustainable and equitably grown food. That’s a pretty big addition.
Her invitation came because she was a founding volunteer of Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) in 2009, and is now single-handedly running the show. Beaith-Johnson’s friend, Jessica Robertson, founded OFRE after seeing similar programs in Toronto, but has since moved to London, Ont. So had the second partner.
“I didn’t want it to die so I said I’ll try running it alone for a year, ” Beaith-Johnson says.
The rescue operation connects volunteer pickers with homeowners who have more fruit on their trees than they can consume – from berries and cherries to pears and plums. The fruit is divided four ways between OFRE (who make jams and jellies to sell at farmers’ markets) and the growers, pickers and charities, such as food banks and Ronald McDonald house.
What started with about 50 volunteers and 100 houses asking for pickers has expanded to around 400 houses and more than 350 volunteers. “During the growing season I put in about 30 hours a week.”
Beaith-Johnson also spends her time as the owner/crafter of Ameya Studio, an all-natural soap and skincare company with products originally created to help her manage her own skin condition, which makes her susceptible to infection because of lymphedema in both legs.
But her long hours are worthwhile; she especially feels good about educating people about food and how to grow it properly. “If the trucks stop running, Edmonton’s got enough food supply for only about three days. So it’s important to use as much of the locally grown food as we can.”