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Organizing a Harvest

Posted on Aug 24, 2016 by in Community, Harvests | 3 comments

You have a fruit tree.
You have registered your fruit tree with us.
You want the fruit off the tree and in the hands of people that need it.

Each year we can not harvest a portion of all registered fruit trees.
Want to know why?
Want to know what to expect?
Want some alternative ideas?

Some fruit donors, especially new registrants who are not familiar with our work, have a reasonable expectation. They registered their fruit tree and expect the fruit to be harvested soon. We get it; and most of the time, that is exactly what we do.

For the next few minutes, put your fruit tree aside and walk with me through the process of how we organize the work and what you can expect.

The Big Picture
Let’s start at the beginning so we quickly get to your fruit tree.

We are a social justice organization. We are focused on helping the poor while protecting the environment. Equal emphasis on food justice and environmental justice. Common sense so far. Right?

Assumed Expectations
As I said, many fruit donors assume we have employees or volunteers that are on call. After registering a fruit tree, they expect two or three people to show up to harvest their fruit. While this is a possible solution, it’s an environmental disaster. Sending multiple people from different parts of town on a trip to harvest one fruit tree, then deliver the harvest to the food bank and return to starting location, will take hours and waste a ton of fuel.

Did I remember to ask you to set your fruit tree aside for a minute?

Now let’s look what we can do in a different light. Let’s say there are thousands of fruit trees on one side of the county and thousands of people that need the fruit on the other side. Our collective job is to get as much of the fruit from one side of the county to another side.

Communal Action
Each week we organize several teams of volunteers. Each team has 6 to 12 members that serve the community for a three hours shift. During each shift, they can service 2 to 5 homes.

Where Would You Send Them
If your goal is to maximize production, minimize the impact on the environment (driving) and make sure volunteers feel productive, where would you send them?

Routes by Example
Here is a dilemma we face each week. Let’ say you have a neighborhood that has five homes in a cul-de-sac each with a fruit tree. A team of volunteers can go there and in a three-hour shift go from one backyard to the next picking fruit the entire time.

Route number two has the same number of locations, but it takes fifteen minutes to drive between each home.

By organizing the work carefully, we harvest a lot of fruit at a very low cost and keep the volunteers motivated. Last year 960 volunteers harvested 147,000 pounds of fruit at an average operating cost of 12 cents per pound.

What to Expect
Each year, as soon as we know that 1) you have excess fruit and 2) you fruit is almost ripe, we attempt to include you on a harvest route and will promptly communicate with you.

If we can harvest your tree, we will notify you and make plans to visit your home.
If we can not harvest your tree, we will also notify you so you can make alternate plans.

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  1. Thank you Urban! I think this is a great, a great way to use extra local fruit, and get kids working to help get food to others in need. I am so glad I hear about you and am looking forward to doing the Walnut Creek sweep on Oct 21st with my family (and our small truck :).

  2. Do you harvest grapefruit trees as far as Pittsburg, Ca

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