The Spokane Edible Tree Project has a network of about 100 registered tree owners, as well as various orchards that they work with throughout the community. Various methods are used to recruit and engage with tree owners during harvest season and throughout the year.
Outreach. Outreach for fruit donors differs based on whether it is a backyard fruit tree or an orchard. SETP’s backyard fruit tree outreach is similar to our volunteer outreach method. SETP board members, staff, and volunteers attend multiple community events throughout the city, including Earth Day Spokane and Vegfest to provide information about the SETP mission and programming. Because of the abundance of fruit trees, many individuals in the community have a fruit tree in their yard, or know somebody that does. In addition to this outreach, many of our other tree owners come from referrals from Second Harvest or other partner organizations. For commercial orchards, Spokane County is lucky to have a network of Green Bluff Growers. This is a network of about 30 fruit growers. Each year, in May, a phone call and email are sent out to all Green Bluff Growers to let them know that SETP is available as a resource towards the end of their general harvesting season.
Communication and Engagement. Each May/June, a phone call and email are sent out to all registered tree owners to ensure that all tree owners are still interested in participating in SETP’s gleaning program. At this point, the tree owners are given updated contact information for the organization and are introduced to the HAH VISTA, who will be their primary contact for harvest season. The tree owners are asked to contact SETP about two weeks before they think their fruit will be ready to harvest. This allows SETP enough time to round up volunteers and advertise for the event. As is a challenge with volunteers, it can be difficult to keep tree owners engaged throughout the entire year. Therefore, in 2017, we plan to offer fruit tree care classes during off season and also send out a newsletter monthly with updates and educational information. In 2017, SETP plans to have a tree owner serve as a board member to help develop best practices for communicating and engaging with tree owners.
Appreciation. There are a couple of ways in which SETP shows appreciation for fruit donors. Each time a grower donates a product, a thank you note is sent promptly. This letter tells the donor the total number of pounds that they donated, as well as describes where the fruit was taken. In addition to the thank you letters, tree owners are invited to the harvest kick off party, as well as the end of season volunteer party, as we see them as valuable volunteers in the program. Another that we show appreciation for the tree owners is to feature them in SETP’s monthly newsletter. This feature highlights how the tree owner partners with SETP, and also allows SETP to thank the donors on our newsletter platform. Lastly, new in 2017, SETP will offer a backyard pest prevention class for a reduced rate to any fruit donor.
The Spokane Edible Tree Project (SETP) was founded in 2013 by former HAH Americorps VISTA Kate Burke. Through her work in a produce recovery position at Second Harvest Food Bank, she recognized the abundance of fruit trees in Spokane County, and noticed that much of this fruit goes to waste. SETP was formed to fill this gap in the system and to empower the community to share the resources that are so abundantly available to them. SETP became a certified 501(c)(3) in 2015. The organization operated fully on volunteers for the first three years. In 2016, they recruited their first HAH Americorps VISTA, who serves as the program coordinator for the organization. SETP has continued to grow and develop over the last three years, and has worked hard to make a name for itself in the community. In 2016, their most successful year yet, 42,000 lbs of fruit were harvested and donated to various community partners.
WSU Extension of Spokane County has been a valuable partner for SETP, as they have helped to support and supervise the HAH Americorps VISTA. The extension office was also essential partners in developing the SETP educational programming.