U-pick orchards are a great gleaning resource because they are easy to access and often have harvesting materials on-site for your use. Also, U-pick growers can be a great asset for volunteer management because they work regularly with inexperienced pickers. The Yakima Valley Produce Harvest has used u-pick orchards to diversify both the type of growers in our program and the type of produce we've harvested.
U-pick growers are usually more open to community members on their property and the idea of gleaning. When calling to pitch your project ask how their market is doing. This will let you know how many u-pickers are coming to their property. If the number is dwindling this is an opportunity for gleaning, as long as there is still produce on the trees or in the field. Typical, u-pick orchards are not always picked clean by the general public, so it is a great opportunity for traditional gleaning. If you present producers the choice between harvesting their remaining fruit for the hungry, or letting the birds have it, they will likely choose gleaning.
Most u-pick producers have their own liability waiver, buckets, picking bags, boxes, and ladders. You will need to check with the producer to ensure they have all of these necessary materials, and ensure you can fill in the gaps of any items they may not have or let you use. For example, u-pick producers may have ladders, but are simultaneously harvesting and selling other fruit on their property. Thus, their ladders would be used by professional pickers in another orchard and not be available for volunteer gleaners. When touring their facility before the glean, or on the phone, be sure to ask what specific items are needed for local gleans to ensure nothing is overlooked.
Hosting a gleaning program can be great advertising for a u-pick farm to spread the word to customers about their farm or to increase brand loyalty. These farms are a great site to host media. Also, these farms offer an opportunity to support the u-pick through social media recommendations. After gleaning, post a recommendation on Facebook, a comment on Yelp, or a note on their website with the number of pounds and type of produce they donated. In your comment, encourage others to patronize the farm because of their commitment to hunger relief.