Spokane Edible Tree Project has a tree registry with a network of about 100 residential tree owners. They also work with numerous orchards in Spokane County. Various methods are used to recruit and engage tree owners throughout the year.
Outreach. SETP’s backyard fruit tree outreach is similar to their volunteer outreach method. The AmeriCorps VISTA, board members, and outreach volunteers attend multiple community events throughout the city to provide information about SETP’s mission and programming. Because of the abundance of fruit trees in Spokane County, many individuals in the community have a fruit tree in their yard, or know somebody that does, resulting in word-of-mouth referrals. Additionally, Second Harvest and other partner organizations frequently refer tree owners to SETP.
Spokane County is also lucky to have an association of Green Bluff Growers. This network includes many commercial U-pick orchards. Each year, in late spring, SETP calls and emails the growers to let them know that the organization is available as a resource toward the end of their general harvesting season.
Communication and Engagement. Each May/June, SETP calls and emails registered tree owners to ask if they are still interested in participating in the gleaning program. At this point, the tree owners are given updated contact information for the organization, and are introduced to the Harvest Against Hunger 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 find volunteers and promote gleans.
As with volunteers, it can be difficult to keep tree owners engaged throughout the entire year. In 2017, SETP began offering fruit tree care classes during the off-season in order to address this challenge. A monthly newsletter is also sent with with updates and educational information.
Appreciation. Each time a tree owner donates a product, a thank you note is promptly sent. This letter tells them the total number of pounds that were donated and describes where the produce was taken. In addition to the thank you letters, tree owners are invited to volunteer appreciation events, as they are also considered valuable volunteer contributors to the gleaning program. Another way that appreciation is shown for tree owners is by featuring them in SETP’s monthly newsletter.
Spokane Edible Tree Project (SETP) was founded in 2013 by former Harvest Against Hunger 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 is currently run by community volunteers and a Harvest Against Hunger AmeriCorps VISTA.
In 2016, SETP recruited their first Harvest Against Hunger AmeriCorps VISTA, who served as the program coordinator for the organization. Their second-year VISTA (2017-2018) continues to coordinate gleaning, outreach, volunteer recruitment, and educational programming. In 2017, SETP expanded to include produce recovery from the Spokane Farmers’ Market. Additionally, WSU Extension of Spokane County has been a valuable partner for SETP, supporting and supervising the AmeriCorps VISTA. The extension office has also been an essential partner in developing SETP’s educational programming.