Fruit grumble – is harvesting unwanted fruit really stealing?

I FEEL compelled to write this letter, having been unable to remove the subject from the back of my mind all week. My partner has advised me to forget it and move on, but I think there is an important moral principle to be discussed.

It stems from a relatively minor incident last Saturday morning in Somersham. We were out for a morning stroll around the village. Walking along the track through the allotments we couldn’t help but notice the bounty of fruit on the hundreds of apple and plum trees spread across many of the allotment plots – hundreds of thousands of fruit. On closer inspection, it was clear that much of the fruit, especially the plums were ripe, alas, however, a large proportion were over-ripe and rotting.

There seemed, in my judgement, to be a surplus of fruit – it was clearly not being harvested in any quantity. On this basis, we thought no one would object if we sample a couple of the plums to sustain us during our onward ramblings. Big mistake!

A gentleman in a white van nearby, who was chatting with another man out for a walk with his dog, called over to us. The exact words escape me, but the basis of his exclamation was ‘that we were stealing the fruit of a paying allotment plot holder and that if we wanted to pick the fruit, we should rent out our own plot!’.

We were somewhat astonished that anyone could object to us sampling a couple of plums, considering the vast quantities that were available and rotting. We, did, however respect the man’s view (we assume he is an allotment holder too) and desisted from picking any further fruit and continued with our walk.

Since this incident, I have given a lot of thought as to why anyone would object to what we did. Clearly the man was of the opinion that we were stealing – if this is the case and the plot holder wishes to press charges, I will admit my guilt and take what punishment is metered out. My personal opinion, however, is that there is a far greater offence being committed here, which is no doubt replicated around the country.

There are over 500,000 people in the UK reliant on food parcels, children going to school without having breakfast, one in six parents going without food so they could put food on the table for their families, and pensioners having to decide whether to buy food or heat a room in their house. Therefore when I see tonnes of good wholesome food going to waste, I think – is there an alternative?

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Just an idea but how about opening the bountiful, unharvested orchards and allotment plots to all and actively encouraging people to take advantage of the luscious fruit! Families, schoolchildren, scout/guide groups could pick fruit for themselves and pensioners. Plot holders could put out a collection box for donations. Monies could be put towards the upkeep of the plot and the allotment site as a whole.

Or is it better to leave all the fruit to rot on the trees and ground and sneer and grumble at your fellow villagers?

There are precedents for my idea – several people in the village harvest their fruit and offer it free to passers-by. Cracking Bramleys Mr Chambers (Somersham High Street) – thank you.

Allotment holders, let us know what you think? I am keen to join you in the future when work and family commitments allow me the time to work a plot. I will, however, think twice if there are more of you with the manner, attitude and opinion of the man in the white van.


Crane Close