Share Your Bounty with Harvest Sacramento

pomelos and lemons
Have you ever strolled down the streets of Sacramento and marveled at the number of citrus trees? Perhaps, like me, you've been a bit dismayed when you see a tree laden with fruit and rotted fruit below it because the fruit is unharvested, unreachable, and thus wasted. I used to think it must be because these trees have bad, non-edible fruit for some reason. It seemed inconceivable that it would just go to waste. Yet so much of it does.

That's why I want everyone to know about this great thing called Harvest Sacramento. Started in 2009 by Soil Born Farms, it is a volunteer effort to collect this wayward fruit and donate it to those who could use via the Sacramento Food Bank.

materials are supplied, but bring gloves if you have them
I volunteered this last Saturday and plan to do so again on April 6. (There is one this Saturday, March 30th, as well.) We met at McClatchy Park and after a round of icebreakers and a brief overview of the program, we split into teams of about 6-8 people and took off.

This day there were nine groups heading out throughout town: Land Park, Curtis Park, East Sac, and Lemon Hill. I joined team leader Briana to go toward my neck of the woods, Land Park. Our team consisted of seven members and we piled into our vehicles to head out. It's helpful for a vehicle in each team to be either a pickup or one that can carry a lot of cargo like a minivan or station wagon. That's because it is nice to have a ladder along as well as having to cart back boxes full of the harvested produce.

pomelos have a gourd shape

The homes we visited had all arranged to donate their fruit. Along the way we would see other homes with fruit going to waste and we would leave behind a doortag about
Harvest Sacramento. I, myself, have gigantic grapefruit and lemon trees. Although I have been able to unload them on my coworkers and others, there are so many, some very high up, that I'm ready to just get rid of them all. It's easy to sign up your trees, just use the donation form.

dumping the harvest
Our first house had grapefruit, the second had pomelos, and the third had oranges. It was estimated that we collected about 5000 pounds. Overall a very productive day. We returned to McClatchy Park and dumped our cargo into the food bank bins as the other crews arrived with their hauls. The bins are left out for a while so that anyone can come and grab some fruit to take home and then the Sacramento Food Bank comes to cart them back for distribution through their facility.

I talked to Randy Stannard, the project coordinator at Soil Born Farms. I asked him about harvesting other types of trees. He explained that they have big, coordinated harvests for citrus season because there are so many trees and the fruit stays on the trees for a long period. They can spread the gleaning over a few weeks. Stone fruits are not so easy. I have neighbors with large plum trees on either side of me. Stannard explained that there are a lot fewer stone fruit trees in neighborhoods and their peak can last as short as a week. For those they have to schedule individual groups or coordinate with a community volunteer that oversees a neighborhood. So far there are community leaders for Land Park, South Land Park, Curtis Park, Tahoe Park, Midtown, and East Sacramento. More neighborhoods are encouraged to join the effort.

To volunteer to glean over the next two Saturdays, sign up via the Soil Born events page.

For other Farm-to-Fork style stories like this one, click here: Farm-to-Fork