Fruit Tree Harvest

Clallam County has a rich history of home and farm orchards. The tree fruit in the area includes: apples, peaches, cherries, plums, pears and apricots. In addition to this tree fruit, Clallam County can grow several nuts, berries and vegetables. The environmental good fortune of the area creates many produce abundances. For the past three years tree fruit has had boom seasons and the food security agencies and clients have greatly benefited.

Safety is something to consider in any volunteer based program. In a gleaning program the concerns are enhanced by ladders and general liability. To address these issues gleaners are covered by WSU’s liability insurance once they have taken a ladder safety test. Volunteers are required to watch a short video, read a two page document and complete a ten question test. Liability insurance has helped many homeowners feel comfortable with strangers visiting their property. A reminder of ladder safety test is included in the signature of the weekly email list.

Having a screening process for home owners can save a lot of headache. When a home owner contacts the program coordinator they are asked a series of quick questions. The series of questions is continually evolving but has helped get a profile of the gleaning opportunity. Since the program is unable to visit all properties prior to a volunteer’s harvesting the “glean screen” is very helpful.

Questions to consider:

  • Collect basic contact information: Name, Number, Address and Email
  • How did you hear about the program?
  • Type of produce
  • Number of trees (plants)
  • General quality of produce
  • How much of the fruit can be harvested?
  • Is it ripe now? If not how soon?
  • Do you have other produce that will be available?
  • Is there a time or day of the week that works better to have gleaners at your property?
  • Do you have a ladder available if it is needed?

Other things to consider: parking conditions, animals, evidence of bug infestation, over ripeness, materials needed. (This will grow the more you talk with homeowners). Here is an example of a glean screen for fellow staff members or people who may receive gleaning inquiries.

In many ways gleaners are the face of the program. They are the ones literally in the field (and orchards) that directly interact with donors. It never hurts to remind gleaners that of their importance to the sustainability of the program. Giving thanks and cleaning up after oneself can go a long way. Sometimes property owners would like a few pounds left on the trees or picked for their families. Encourage gleaners to talk with donors before and after harvesting. 

WSU Extension builds the capacity of individuals, organizations, businesses and communities, empowering them to find solutions for local issues and to improve their quality of life. The 39 Extension locations throughout the state of Washington offer researched based resources and volunteer programing to communities in efforts to create a culture of life-long learning and is recognized for its accessible, learner-centered, relevant, high-quality, unbiased educational programs. Over 100 years ago The Extension service was originally funded by the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 which established the Cooperative Extension service across the country.

The Clallam County Extension, located in Port Angeles, is home to many programs that connect the people and communities of Clallam County with the knowledge base of Washington State University. These programs include: Master Gardeners, 4-H, Small Farms, Waste Reduction, Food and Nutrition and Water Protection. The Food Recovery Coordinator position was created in 2016 to better serve the existing gleaning program. Before the creation of this position the gleaning program had served the community for eight years but never with the attention of a full time position. Today the gleaning program has over 300 volunteers who pick produce from residential trees, farm production overages, community garden donations and extras from a local farmer’s market. The gleaning coordinator promotes the program by presenting public lectures, reaching out to volunteer organizations, teaching youth groups, attending local events and by putting out press releases. Home owners are more than happy to hear there is a volunteer based organization willing to pick their unusable fruit and veggies. Once the produce has been picked a portion is taken home to family and friends and the rest is brought to a local food service program, most often a food bank. The gleaning program takes pride in turning potential food waste into a community resource. 

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