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Picking fruit for people in need


Last updated 6/26/2008 at Noon

Andy Sommer unloads his donation of avocados and lemons from his grove during a weekly stop at the Fallbrook Food Pantry.

In 1973, Andy Sommer visited Fallbrook for a day. He enjoyed the small town and grove atmosphere so much that nearly 30 years later he purchased property in the Friendly Village and planted his own grove.

His business, a weaving loom company based in Northern California, purchased a small company in Los Angeles which distributed the fabrics in the 1970s.

“We inherited this salesman who lived in Fallbrook, and one day in 1973, I traveled around with him,” he said.

Sommer recalled the great memory he had of visiting the residence of this salesman and happily helping him pick avocados from his two-acre grove.

“We picked two or three shopping bags of avocados and then traveled into the Orange County area,” he said. “Every sales call that he made, this salesman would put two avocados on the receptionist’s desk.”

Sometimes, those avocados opened the door for the salesman to meet with the right person and do business, explained Sommer.

Sommer thought it would be a fun thing to wake up in the morning and be able to look forward to picking fruit in his own grove. This memory stuck with him for decades and resurfaced when his daughter relocated from Northern California to Encinitas.

At that time, Sommer lived in Palm Springs, enjoying retirement swings on the golf course. “When I would drive down I-15 to see my daughter, I would see the Fallbrook sign,” said Sommer.

One day, he motored off the ramp into Fallbrook and chatted with a realtor. In December 2000, Sommer purchased bare land, built a home and planted his own grove.

“I called East Brothers, a grove development and management company, and they recommended that one and one-half acres be devoted to avocados and another half-acre should have Eureka lemons,” explained Sommer. “I did not plant the groves with the intent to profit; I did it for landscape.”

About four years ago, Sommer’s groves started producing, and that’s when he decided to donate the fruit to people in need. When his fruit are in season, one weekly stop he makes is at the Fallbrook Food Pantry.

“The Food Pantry provides me with the crates and each one holds 40 to 50 pounds,” said Sommer. “On average, I bring them 1,500 pounds of lemons and avocados a week.”

On an annual basis, Sommer mentally computed that he donates 5,000 pounds of lemons and 5,000 pounds of avocados to the Food Pantry.

With the crates piled in the bed of his truck, he thoroughly enjoys making these jaunts to the Fallbrook Food Pantry, and also to the Oceanside Senior Center.

“At the Senior Center, people go out of their way to find me and thank me,” he said. “The seniors are so genuine and precious.”

At the Food Pantry, said Sommer, he is met by volunteers who help him unload the 30 crates of fruit in his truck.

Delighted to know that his desire to have his own fruit grove in Fallbrook did come to fruition, Sommer is equally pleased knowing he is able to help others.

“It is heartwarming to know that there are other seniors volunteering to make a team effort to get nutritious food to the needy,” he said. “I admire what the Fallbrook Food Pantry does.”

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