That’s why the nonprofit Alameda Backyard Growers started Project Pick, a gleaning initiative in the City of Alameda. “Our mission is to save surplus backyard fruit from going to waste and instead get it to folks who appreciate it,” explains project coordinator Jill Saxty. It sounds simple but involves a lot: finding and reaching out to fruit tree owners in need of harvesting help, recruiting and training volunteers to help do the gleaning, and coordinating with the Alameda Food Bank who distributes the fresh fruit to the families they serve.
“Since we started about a decade ago, we have gleaned some 23 tons of citrus, apples, plums, persimmons and other fruit,” says Saxty. And that’s just making a small dent—she estimates that in Alameda alone, five times more surplus backyard fruit goes unharvested.
Alameda Backyard Growers Gleaning Guide
The Alameda Backyard Growers and StopWaste have collaborated on a new guide to starting and growing your own neighborhood gleaning group. ABG shares how backyard produce can help build community, make the most of the vegetables and fruit all around us, and taste great at the same time!
Gleaning Brings People Together
Project Pick not only saves food and feeds people but builds community. As Saxty puts it: “We’re neighbors getting to know neighbors and together contribute our time and energy—and extra harvest—to a good cause.” The fresh fruit is in high demand at the Alameda Food Bank where customers love that it was grown and harvested in their own community. “You can’t eat much more local than from your neighbor’s yards,” says Alameda Food Bank director Cindy Houts. When her pantry offers Project Pick harvest, it’s usually gone in no time. Houts appreciates the organized, consolidated fruit drops as her busy staff can’t accept individual backyard fruit donations.
Growing a Crop of Gleaners
When Project Pick gets harvesting requests from outside Alameda, they refer fruit tree owners to other gleaning groups, but not enough East Bay cities have one. As a solution, Saxty decided to propagate the concept. Collaborating with Alameda County public agency StopWaste, she created a detailed guide for budding gleaning groups elsewhere, covering everything from organizational structure and volunteer recruitment to tools and marketing. “It’s just another way we want to share with others,” says Saxty. “Fruit, knowledge, ideas… there is abundance if we just put our minds and hearts to it.”
Learn more about Project Pick and download the gleaning guide starting mid-June at www.AlamedaBackyardGrowers.org.
East Bay Gleaning Organizations
- Berkeley: Berkeley Mutual Aid, www.berkeleymutualaid.org/fruitgleaning
- Oakland: Oakland Gleaners, http://oaklandgleaners.org
- Castro Valley: Forestr Gleaning, www.forestr.org/gleaning
Organizations that accept local backyard fruit
- Fremont, Newark, Union City
- Pleasant Hill area
- White Pony Express, www.whiteponyexpress.org/food-pantry
Quick Plum Preserve
Make it last! Jams, jellies and preserves are a great way to extend the life of abundant backyard fruit.
Yields about 2 ½ cups
- 2 lbs fresh plums, halved and pitted
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Coarsely chop plums and stir together with sugar, water and cinnamon stick in a 2-quart heavy saucepan.
- Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally (more often toward the end of cooking) until thickened and reduced to about 2 ½ cups, 45-60 minutes.
- Discard cinnamon stick and cool preserve.
- Transfer to an airtight container and chill. Keeps at least one month in the fridge.
More recipes and tips for your backyard harvest:
- StopWaste: Home and Community Gardening - Tips and resources for growing food and building healthy soil
- Grow Your Own Greens
- Apricot Freezer Jam recipe
- Immune Boosting Lemon Cubes
- Preserved Lemons