If you are like me and have a fruit tree in your backyard, reaping the harvest can be both exciting, and well… a major pain in the ass. Don’t get me wrong, I love waking up every morning to fresh tree-ripened plums, but the 85% of the harvest that I can’t eat or give away fast enough is quickly becoming a nuisance. Trying to keep Liam from eating the worm-infested, rotten ones is a challenge all on its own. After an afternoon spent trying to pick up and salvage as many as I can, it was time to call the “gleaners”. What’s exactly is a gleaner you ask? Well, from the content in this paragraph, I am pretty sure you figured it out. While the more traditional definition of a gleaner is someone who goes in after the harvest and picks what’s left, a more modern definition describes humanitarian organizations that pick fruit and veggies that would otherwise go unused, and donate it to food banks and other organizations getting food out to those who need it.
As people become more aware of thier connection to food in thier local communities, small scale gleaning projects are popping up all over the country. One such organization in Seattle is Solid-Ground. While the scope of this organization is much larger than an annual tree harvest, it is just one of the services they provide that helps meet their larger goal to provide shelter, food, home care, transportation and other basic services to families and individuals in need throughout King County. By asking people to simply donate thier fruit that would otherwise go unused, they are able to help out a lot of families in the area who can’t afford local, organic produce. Being on the giving end, you end up with a much cleaner yard and on the recieving, a much healthier life. It’s a win-win for everyone involved and the community as a whole.
Another similar project in Los Angeles had taken gleaning to whole new level. Fallen Fruit, a lovalvore-activist art project, has taken on the large task of mapping out all the city’s public fruit trees. They believe that “fruit is a resource that should be commonly shared, like shells from the beach or mushrooms from the forest.” If you live in the area, you can simply log on to their website, check out where the local trees are, grab your basket, and start picking. Fallen Fruit is also involved in many other guerrilla-gardening projects and urge residents to plant food in as many public spaces as they can.
If you are sitting home right now with a fruit tree bursting at the seams with its bounty, find a local organization to help! If you find that you don’t have one, you can always pick the fruit yourself and drop it off at your local food bank. Even if you can only pick a bag full, if it will help one less person in your city go hungry, its worth it.