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When Life Gives You Lemons, Give Back

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Growing New Gardeners

While the core focus of Chan’s Lemon Lady mission remains connecting excess produce to those in need, her efforts expand that core solution to food security: teaching people to grow their own food. A long-time gardening enthusiast, Chan helped launch a children’s community garden in a low-income area in Contra County that focuses on connecting kids and their families with their food source.

“Kids get so enthusiastic with the responsibility of their own plant in the garden,” Chan explains. “It’s great to see them experience the whole process from seedling to harvest.”

While Chan’s daughter may have fostered the launch of the Lemon Lady career back in those fussy baby days, Ava now provides the ongoing inspiration and incentive to fuel her mother’s foraging mission.

“As a parent, I’m responsible for not only feeding my daughter, but creating a better world for her to grow up in,” reflects Chan. Ava accompanies her mother on fruit-collection efforts with enthusiasm, often following along with her pint-sized “shopping cart” to help harvest.

“It is my dream that all kids, like Ava, get so excited when they see a seed and want to run and plant it immediately,” Chan notes. “My gift to Ava through harvesting and donating fruit is for her to realize we can each individually make a difference and to understand the importance of fresh, healthy food choices. Hopefully down the road, when she’s older, she’ll choose the fresh orange over something processed with orange color and flavor added.” 

Sharing the Story

An important ingredient in Chan’s Lemon Lady outreach is her blog, where she personally shares experiences, successes and challenges of her one-woman campaign to let no fruit tree go to waste.

“I never blogged before, but friends encouraged me to share my story as a means to encourage others to look at the fruit trees in their community as ripe harvesting opportunities,” explains Chan. Her blog showcases an eclectic collection of personal photos, tidbits, farmer stories and, most importantly, resources for folks to connect with food banks and collection efforts in their areas.

This Lemon Lady exemplifies the tremendous impact individual people can have on positively affecting our food system, one lemon at a time. But she’s quick to point out that tapping into unpicked bounty is not exclusive to the sunny climate of California.

“At some time of the year, on Main Street in Anytown, U.S.A., there’s a fruit tree waiting for someone to pick,” Chan advises. 

What’s next for this one-woman change-agent dynamo? Chan is considering forming a nonprofit to help further her outreach and tap into potential grant funding. In the meantime, look for her and Ava driving the streets and scavenging the markets, leaving no lemon or unpicked opportunity behind. 

About the Author: Lisa Kivirist writes from Inn Serendipity, her farm and bed-and-breakfast in Wisconsin, which is completely powered by renewable energy and specializes in local, seasonal, organic cuisine. She is co-author of ECOpreneuring (New Society Publishers, 2008) and Rural Renaissance (New Society Publishers, 2004). 

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of Urban Farm.

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