Volunteer outreach and retention have been the most challenging aspects of the PCGP. However, by employing the strategies discussed below, the PCGP has cultivated a dedicated volunteer base needed to expand its impact.
Gleaning can be hard work and it can’t be done without dedicated volunteers and farm partners. The Pierce County Gleaning Project has made an end-of-the season celebration an annual tradition.
“Registering” fruit tree owners has been interesting because most fruit tree owners the gleaning coordinator connected with were equipped to harvest their own fruit and uninterested in gleaning. To work around this, the VISTA produced the PCGP Postcard designed for folks to share with their neighbors who have fruit trees that could benefit from gleaning. In conjunction with other outreach efforts, this has resulted in about a 100 percent increase in the number of fruit tree registrations.
The Pierce County Gleaning Project is the first organized gleaning effort in Pierce County since early 2000. The Project began in 2009 at St. Leo’s Food Connection and in Fall 2010 it grew with the placement of an AmeriCorps*VISTA gleaning coordinator at the Emergency Food Network.
In its first year, the PCGP gleaning coordinator tabled and gleaned a weekly farmers market in downtown Tacoma. It was a great way to outreach to local farmers and resulted in 7,300 pounds of gleaned produce, milk and bread for St. Leo’s.
The PCGP gleaning coordinator worked with the Pierce County community garden coordinator to distribute plant starts in support of the Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR) campaign.
Drawing inspiration from Seattle gleaning groups such as Lettuce Link’s Community Fruit Tree Harvest and City Fruit, the PCGP coordinator organized a fruit harvest in five neighborhoods in Tacoma, based on neighborhood council boundaries. While the second year of harvesting fruit trees has reaped more than eight times its first year harvest total, it has not been without challenges.
Pierce County is fortunate to have a Share the Harvest Program coordinator that works with the Tacoma/Pierce County Community Gardens. The program is focused on establishing a culture of sharing between urban gardens and the emergency food network.
Food Bank Farms and Gardens are great ways to get a steady supply of fresh produce to those who need it most.