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Slow Food is preserving the Gravenstein apple and the Free Community Apple Press.

Written by Paula Shatkin

Together, we are helping our community preserve biodiversity, feed our neighbors who are in need, and save and value our
historic apple culture.

Gravenstein Presidia members, the Apple Core, have worked through the spring to find ways in the face of the pandemic to save, use and preserve both the Gravensteins and the community we have created over the past six years around our Free Community Apple Press — and over the past 20 years with our many other ongoing projects to save the Gravensteins. [What about what we’ve been doing  for 20 years?] Each year we have applied for and received a generous grant from the City of Sebastopol to continue our work, supplemented by small donations from grateful patrons.

We have built upon our lessons from each previous year, grown our team of volunteers and fine-tuned our system of reservations for volunteers and use of the press.  Each year the number of patrons has grown — and the amount of pounds of apples pressed has grown exponentially.  Last year we pressed 50,000 pounds of apples.  All the pomace (remnants from the pressing) has gone to farmers to feed their livestock. We could not open our press this year due to health and safety needs of our volunteers and our patrons.  

So how do we use those 50,000 pounds of apples in the face of skyrocketing hunger, illness, homelessness and unemployment when we cannot make the press available to the public? That has been the challenge of this difficult year. 

We are proud to tell you what we are in the midst of accomplishing:

Working with Farm to Pantry (FTP), an incredible local organization that gleans thousands of pounds of produce, fruit, and now apples weekly and delivers to dozens of food pantry and shelters and senior communities, we have arranged to have thousands of pounds of apples picked and brought to two different places in our community: Apple A Day, a local family run business that processes apples into juice; and Manzana Products, a local, historic apple cannery that has served our community for over 90 years.  In addition, we reached out to every patron who has used our press in the past two years to ask if they can donate backyard apples. 

In early August, 2,000 pounds of donated local apples were pressed and bottled at Apple A Day and delivered to the Redwood Empire Food Bank to be given to hungry families. Three large bins were brought to the parking lot of a local church, also generously donating their space, and filled with apples gleaned by FTP as well with apples from small boxes and bags donated by people with a few trees in their yards.

We intend, with the help of our community partners, to continue this work throughout the apple season.

This is a community effort, just as the Community Apple Press has been a community sharing and gathering.  Together, we are helping our community preserve biodiversity, feed our neighbors who are in need, and save and value our historic apple culture.