Backyard Fruit Tree Harvests

In some communities, especially in rural and residential areas, a major source of produce will fall from trees for a few months out of the year. If you do a good job of advertising your gleaning program, this food can be gathered before it falls to the ground.

The Gleaning Coordinator at TCFB compiled a database of residential fruit tree owners who had contacted the food bank about gleaning. A simple series of questions was asked in the initial phone call or email, and were added in the same format as the gleaning site profiles:

  • Contact information: Name, address where trees are located, phone numbers
  • How many fruit trees do you have? What types? What condition?
  • Will a ladder be needed?
  • Are there ladders or pickers at the property that gleaners may use?
  • When would be the best times for gleaners to come out? Would you like to be there when they arrive?

Once you have established sites it may even be helpful to create a fruit tree map for your community, to reference in the future. Once you have gleaned once you can ask the resident if they’re interested in having you come back the next year. Some home owners have no problem with a group gleaning at their convenience whether resident is present or not. 

Always express thanks for their donations, and if there is a reason you are unable to glean or are uninterested in their fruit, be clear about that too. As with all gleans, keep your commitments, arrive on time, and respect the owner’s property.

To promote a fruit tree gleaning project, get the word out to local newspapers, radio stations, grange communities, and neighborhood associations. Flyers posted in neighborhoods with the food bank’s contact information can help inform people who would not normally think of donating their fruit. In one instance, a volunteer placed the gleaning coordinator’s business card on a car in her neighborhood that sat in front of a house with ripe apple trees; that resident made contact, and not only was the fruit gleaned, but that house is now in the database for future years.


Thurston County Food Bank (TCFB) is located in Olympia, WA. Established by volunteers in 1965, TCFB has continued to grow since that time. TCFB reaches the community through a variety of services; food bank distribution, satellite location distribution, FORKids, mobile food bank sites, and summer lunch program. TCFB utilized 7800 volunteers who donated 50,379 hours this past year. Thurston County Food Bank has a large presence in the Thurston County community, serving 57,234 clients in 2014. 


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