Q&A: Laura Reinsborough of Not Far From The Tree, this year’s Brewer’s Plate beneficiary

For four years, Toronto’s Brewer’s Plate has been bringing together the city’s best chefs and local craft beers in a celebration of local food. Funds raised with this year’s locavore spring feast will go to Not Far From The Tree (NFFTT), a charity started by local green hero Laura Reinsborough in 2008.

NFFTT organizes volunteers to harvest fruit from unused or under-used trees around the city. The fruit is divided between the tree owners, the volunteers and neighbourhood food banks, shelters and community kitchens, where the free fruit is delivered on foot or by bicycle.

Reinsborough, delighted her organization was chosen as this year’s beneficiary, tells us the fundraiser being held this Wednesday “isn’t just another gala with some fancy name chefs to put on the bill; these are people who are really passionate about what they do.” Reinsborough — clearly passionate about what she does — spoke to us about the event, her organization and the local food movement.

Why is the Brewer’s Plate such a big deal?
I love local food and I love a good beer, so it’s a great event for me. It’s really green to the core, but also it’s a great fun time when people can get together and put their support behind something. The local food movement allows us to talk about environmental issues, about social issues, about the gap between rich and poor and growing poverty, about hunger, about caring for the land, about understanding an urban ecology, about connecting with our neighbours. So to have this event, where you get the top-notch producers and the people involved in the movement together, and to create it in an atmosphere of fun — Shadowland Theatre is going to be there with puppets and stilts and really animating the whole evening, and [trumpet player] David Buchbinder is doing music to really bring a liveliness and to show that kind of vibrancy that is present in this movement.

Please talk about some of the participants at this year’s event, and what they do that Toronto should be aware of and excited about?
Oh my gosh, I might just keep going on and on and on… The chefs, like Jamie Kennedy and Marc Breton are donating their time. There are also artisanal producers who are going to be there. Buddha Dog is launching a new lamb dog at this event; and Evelyn’s Crackers has created a whole new cracker that uses barley, because of the connection with beer, for this event; Montefort Dairy will be there; Chocosol chocolates; to help the chefs purchase sustainable foods for the event, Local Foods Plus and 100 Mile Market are helping to source food from their producers. And each of the producers and chefs and brewers that are present at Brewer’s Plate bring something, bring a different voice to that conversation. And it’s one of the most vibrant conversations, one of the most vibrant social movements to come along in a long, long time.

How will NFFTT use the funds raised by Brewer’s Plate?
So far we’ve operated mostly in the downtown core, but the funds raised from Brewer’s Plate will help us to kick-start our programs in a high priority neighbourhood outside the downtown core that can really make use of what we do.

How will you choose the new neighbourhood?
It depends on where we have trees registered, because we have trees registered all over the city, and it also depends on relationships with organizations where we could donate the fruit.

Why are so many people getting into the local food movement, and for those who aren’t yet into it what would you say to get them interested?
It comes down to that kind of question about where our food comes from, where we put our trust in our food system, and where we want to change that power so that we do feel comfortable eating food, when we know how it’s been grown. You can have a really positive impact and do something. We’re always told with the environmental movement to not do something. Don’t use energy, don’t drink bottled water; but here’s something that you can really do, by growing, by eating, by getting involved. 

Brewer’s Plate, Wychwood Barns, April 6

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