Harleston launches ‘fruity dating agency’

Residents of a Norfolk town have started a dating agency with a difference after launching a scheme to try and cut down on waste and reduce food miles.

Gardeners and allotment holders in Harleston spoke of their hope of establishing a new community of local growers after forming the 'fruity dating agency'.

The service, which will be coordinated by volunteers at the town's information centre, aims to find loving homes for the mountains of excess fruit and veg that is grown by householders over the course of the year.

Harleston Information Plus will act as the 'swap shop' for the project and green-fingered residents are being urged to register their interest, which at first will see the exchange of unwanted seedlings, but will turn into the swapping of excess tomatoes, courgettes, plums, apples, and other fruits and vegetables as their plants begin to grow.

The project was the brainchild of Kate Chenneour, of the Harleston Allotments Association, who got the idea after witnessing all the rotten fruit that had fallen from the town's trees last year.

She said the aim of the dating agency was to make fresh produce available to people that did not have the space to grow lots of their own fruit and veg and to keep local food local.

'Harleston has a really active local community. There is a combination of the new allotments off Mendham Lane, the gardening club is fairly active and there are an awful lot of orchards in the town.'

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'The idea of reducing food miles is really good and there are a lot of people that make pickles and jams and sell them on stalls to raise funds for charity things and it would be nice to get them together. It is making this food available to a wider community,' she said.

The initiative, which will run by Harleston Information Plus, aims to create a new network of people who wish to swap their produce with no money being exchanged.

Sue Hughes, who will coordinate the scheme, said a local resident with too much rhubarb had become the first member of the fruity dating agency.

'If it does well this year, we will do it all the time. It is to stop stuff from going to waste and it is not envisaged to be a free food bank.'

'I have planted a few extra things so I can give some away. Quite often if you buy a packet of seeds, there is no point in keeping it. You might as well plant them all and see what comes up,' she said.

For more information about the free service, contact Harleston Information Plus on 01379 851917 or visit the centre in Exchange Street.

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