Backyard Harvests with Spokane Edible Tree Project
Spokane’s neighborhoods are filled with fruit trees. According to a 2012 tree mapping completed by the city of Spokane, there are around 7,000 potentially edible trees throughout the city. This means that there is an abundance of fresh fruit and nuts that can be used to help address hunger challenges in Spokane County and the surrounding communities. While many of these trees may be a part of some larger orchards, many homeowners have 1 or 2 fruit trees in their backyard. SETP’s mission is to educate and empower the community to take advantage of these amazing resources.
In order to connect with backyard fruit tree owners, SETP, again, tables at events throughout the community. At every event, a majority of the individuals that stop to talk to SETP either own a fruit tree or know somebody that does. This provides an opportunity for SETP to describe what their gleaning program entails, and what it means to be a fruit donor for SETP. Individuals are directed to the website where they can register their trees. The homeowner is added to SETP tree registry database kept in an Excel spreadsheet (Name, Address, Phone, Email, Quantity of Trees, Type of Trees, Dates Harvested, Date Contacted, and Notes).
Once the tree is registered, an email is sent to thank the donor for offering their generosity to the community. Then in May/early June, homeowners are contacted again to ensure that they are still interested in participating in the program. If so, tree owners are asked to call SETP about two weeks before their fruit is ready. This can be difficult because again, homeowners often are not educated in how to tell when this is. Often, the phone calls come when the fruit is already ripe, and it is then difficult to have time to organize volunteers.
Once a homeowner calls, SETP creates an event or reaches out to group leaders to advertise the event. A public meet-up location is provided so that private addresses are not made public. Then volunteers travel to the site. Gleaning waivers (attached) are filled out by all new volunteers. Ladder safety training is given and volunteers are also shown the proper way to harvest the fruit. Gleaning events typically last about two hours, as SETP has found that this is typically when volunteers begin to dwindle. After two hours, all fruit is loaded into SETP’s vehicle and taken to a local nonprofit partner.
If SETP is overwhelmed with many gleans at one time, homeowners are encouraged to organize their own glean with friends, and SETP will drive around to pick up the produce. This helps to reduce time spent on recruiting volunteers and advertising for the event and also encourages local neighbors to come together to harvest. In 2016, SETP also had one family who harvested trees throughout their community and then had SETP pick up the fruit. They harvested over 500 lbs as a family at various homes throughout their neighborhood. They advertised on their local Next Door page.