Residential tree owners have historically been recruited at outreach events and via word of mouth. Tree owners must register their trees through this Google Form, providing contact info and information on tree/fruit varieties and harvest seasons. Registered tree owners and those who sign up at outreach events are added to the MailChimp mailing list.
1 month before first harvest event, staff sends a MailChimp message to Fruit Tree Owners list encouraging people to register their trees or update their information in the registry in preparation for harvest season.
2 weeks before each harvest event, using harvest times on registry entries, staff/volunteers schedule tree inspections to verify amount and quality of fruit available at each property in order to determine an appropriate harvest site/route for each harvest event. (For example, The first harvest event of the season is scheduled for August 1st. Around July 15th, staff/volunteers make calls to tree owners with “early August” fruit, starting with those with the most trees, asking if the homeowner would like to have their trees harvested this year, inquiring about the state and amount of fruit coming on, letting them know dates/times of upcoming volunteer events, and if all seems in order, scheduling an inspection.) Staff/volunteers make clear to tree owners that registration/inspection is not a guarantee of harvest, and that volunteer events will be held at sites with the most quality fruit available.
The homeowner should accompany the inspector to look at the trees, learn what the organization is looking for (amount/ripeness of fruit on trees, pest/disease issues, access issues.) The inspector answers any tree questions to the best of their ability, refers to other resources, or agrees to follow up. Some homeowners may be fine with an inspector dropping by while they aren’t at home, in which case, the inspector follows up with them post-inspection to share observations and/or schedule harvesting.
Once the best harvest site/route for the event has been determined, staff/volunteers confirm with the selected tree owner(s) and send them a PDF of the harvest liability waiver. If a tree owner doesn’t get selected for harvest, they are informed of other options for people to share their fruit! Urban Abundance hosts a Facebook group called “Urban Abundance - DIY Harvests” for tree owners and local people interested in gleaning to connect and arrange their own harvest activities. Tree owners can also reach out to local groups focused on gardening, food preservation and waste reduction, as well as Next Door, Craigslist, and local “Buy Nothing” clubs to find people interested in harvesting fruit for free.)
Beyond registration and harvest-related communication, fruit tree owners are invited via MailChimp to participate in Fruit Tree Stewards educational workshops to gain knowledge and skills for caring for their trees. Fruit tree care resources and links are available on the website and relevant articles/tips shared on the Facebook page (Aspire: regular emails w/ updates, articles/tips, local events/workshops)
Donors should be thanked every time they are contacted via phone, online or in person. They are informed if a tax deduction is available for their donation and a receipt with the organization’s tax ID is provided to them post-harvest event. Donors are thanked publicly in post-event and post-harvest season social media posts and email updates. If there is a capacity to include them, donors may be invited to an end of season “appreciation” event along with volunteers.
Urban Abundance, a program of Slow Food Southwest Washington (501c3), has been helping to harvest and tend Clark County’s backyard and community orchards since 2010. Recognizing the abundance of fruit trees in Clark County going unharvested, early leadership formed a volunteer group to help collect and donate fruit that would otherwise go to waste. Produce is donated to the Clark County Food Bank, which distributes to a county-wide network of over 40 partner food pantries and meal programs. The program has been historically facilitated by Slow Food leadership, funded by a recurring charitable donation. Urban Abundance shared a part-time Americorps VISTA with the Clark County Food Bank in 2011, and in 2018, Slow Food Southwest Washington was awarded an Americorps VISTA to coordinate Urban Abundance full-time.
In the winter/spring of 2018, Urban Abundance held a series of Fruit Tree Steward workshops and work parties in community orchards, covering topics such as fruit tree pruning, sheet mulching, fruit thinning, and pollinator promotion. Each workshop was followed by a work party during which participants helped with seasonal orchard maintenance activities aligned with workshop topics. The Americorps VISTA has been responsible for performing consistent outreach via Facebook and a MailChimp newsletter to inform supporters and recruit volunteers. The VISTA has increased program visibility by participating in highly attended community outreach events such as Earth Day, EcoFest, National Get Outdoors Day, Recycled Arts Fair, and regional farmers markets throughout the summer. The VISTA helped launch and promote the first annual Pick-a-Pear-a-thon, a combination volunteer and per-pound pledge drive. Over 100 volunteers participated in the pear harvest and Urban Abundance earned over $1000 in small donations. During the 2018 harvest season, the VISTA organized weekly harvest parties at community orchards and residential harvest sites. Harvest party volunteers gleaned apples, pears, Asian pears, and grapes for donation to the Clark County Food Bank and were invited to keep some for themselves.