For its first year, the 2019 OIC’s fruit gleaning has been slow but steady. We have gleaned local orchards, backyards and a permaculture collective. The program collected peaches, pears, apples, nectarines, apricots, plums, pluots, and apples this year! The main focus of this season was to simply find the fruit that can be gleaned. Of the thousands of pounds of fruit produced in this fertile valley only a small fraction actually stays here, worst yet that fraction is mostly left to rot because of its mere “unmarketableness” dictated by the grocery store and export guidelines. The goal of this program is to rescue this food and get it to families in need rather than let it go to waste.
Since its the beginning of OIC hosting the program, most of the VISTA’s time as been building strong relations with the growers. This time spent at the local farms, getting to know them, helping pick and sort through the fruit has been extremely rewarding and promising, however bringing groups of volunteers to the gleans has yet to be commenced due to the fear of liability and harm to their trees.
The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act has been helpful in easing some of this fear but for now the growers rather harvest the majority of it and donate it. The first year VISTA has been developing with the help of other gleaners and local growers in the area, a training and handout to educate people what supplies they’ll need, how to properly harvest and respect the wishes of the growers. Once completed this will be used in training volunteers how to properly glean.