Central Washington has an abundance of commercial orchards and fields, which provide a vast opportunity for produce recovery. The largest hurdle to partner with commercial orchards is the scale necessary to handle such opportunities.
For example, a gleaning event took place at a 600-acre orchard. With the help of over 200 volunteer hours, 10 tons of apples were harvested; however, three-quarters of the apples available to glean were left untouched.
Inviting large youth or church groups increases the poundage harvested while exposing more of the community to produce recovery efforts. In an effort to bridge this gap, CSML’s AmeriCorps member worked with fellow AmeriCorps members (FISH Food Bank in Ellensburg and Community Harvest in Wenatchee) and gleaning organizations in Central Washington (Fields of Grace, Tri-Cities) to have events that included efforts from multiple organizations. Most volunteers are only willing to drive between 30 and 45 miles, requiring creative carpooling and mass transit options to increase attendance.
In 2015, Northwest Harvest in Yakima contacted the AmeriCorps member in Moses Lake to offer an opportunity to glean pears straight from a Yakima orchard. The AmeriCorps member took the opportunity and arranged a gleaning event in collaboration with Northwest Harvest. Facing problems similar to the aforementioned example, the AmeriCorps member and Northwest Harvest went out with the few local volunteers they had and started gleaning about 14 totes worth of pears. Even though volunteers were limited, it was successful because of all the totes both organizations filled.
In the same year, Cave B Winery called Harvest Against Hunger (formally Rotary First Harvest) to inform them of an opportunity to glean Red Delicious Apples. Their plan was to remove the apple trees due to the orchard not being profitable. The AmeriCorps member of Moses Lake visited the orchard to assess the quality and quantity of the apples to determine if it was at all possible to glean the trees before removal. The AmeriCorps member coordinated a gleaning event with the Senior Center Gleaners as well as CSML to collect and redistribute the Red Delicious Apples. The event was a success because the Senior Center gleaners were able to provide more volunteers than before. Although it took time to fill and transport apples to the totes, the Gleaners gleaned six totes full, while an additional three totes were transported by truck to CSML.