In a location of produce abundance such as Clallam County, finding available produce is not a challenge. Often there is more available than volunteers can pick. Therefore, volunteers should be encouraged to be politely selective about what they harvest and donate. This will ensure that produce is of good quality and ripeness and does not become a burden to the emergency food organizations. This selectiveness starts at the desk of the Gleaning Coordinator who talks with each homeowner/farmer before sending a volunteer to the site. Coordinator asks questions such as “does the produce taste ripe?” and “will the produce still be harvestable in the 4-5 days it will take to get a volunteer out to the glean site?” Also, “Is most of the harvestable produce still on the tree?” The Gleaning Coordinator should explain to the homeowner that the emergency food donation sites prefer not to get ground fall fruit because of the increased risk that it may harbor bacteria.
In the last few years, Clallam County has experienced an increased infestation of coddling moth and apple maggot in the pome fruit, and fruit fly larvae in the cherries. While not instructing volunteers to shun all imperfect fruit, it is important to encourage volunteers to only donate fruit that they themselves would be willing to eat.
It can also be beneficial to instruct homeowners in how to judge the ripeness of their own fruit. Educating them about when to call the WSU Extension Office and report their ripe fruit is a good way to improve the timing of gleans. Giving the WSU Extension Office a week’s notice before the fruit is ripe can help get a volunteer to the site in time to harvest.
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 programming 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 Gleaning 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 yards, 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, advertising on social media and by putting out press releases. Homeowners are more than happy to hear there is a volunteer-based organization willing to pick their extra 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.