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When Will You Harvest My Fruit?

When Will You Harvest My Fruit?

People that want to donate their excess backyard fruit are our kind of people. They are kind hearted, concerned with social justice and dislike waste. The last thing we want to do is disappoint them. However, since they are not familiar with our work, they sometimes develop expectations that are not realistic, and when we do not meet their expectations, they feel disappointed. Let’s change this.

The purpose of this post is to explain
1) how we operate
2) when you can expect to have your fruit harvested
3)  if we can not harvest your fruit, what other options are available to you.

Many of our fruit donors register their trees when the fruit is ripe and falling. Whether you bought a home and discovered you have a fruit tree, or just learned about The Urban Farmers, whatever the reason, registering fruit trees with ripe and falling fruit is a normal occurrence for us.

Immediate Response
Fact#1 – We can not respond to harvest requests immediately.
We are an all volunteer organization. We have no employees. This means we are not able to respond to any requests immediately. We don’t like this any more than you do, but it’s a fact of our lives.

Harvest Teams
Fact#2 – Teams harvest fruit, not individuals.
Each year over 2,000 people register to volunteer and pick fruit and we organize over 100 harvests per year to keep them busy. 
Each harvest is composed of 8 to 12 volunteers and a harvest leader. No matter the size of your tree, we usually send a team and not one person to do a harvest.

It takes about three weeks to organize a team of volunteers. Each team visits 1 to 4 homes in a 3-hour shift and collects about 1,000 pounds per shift.

To conduct a harvest, we usually send our harvest truck plus 2 or 3 cars full of volunteers. This is why we seldom visit a single home. In general, we harvest by neighborhood, this way we minimize driving time and maximize picking time.

Planning a Harvest
Fact#3 – We need your cooperation
Once a tree is registered, we know the approximate month that the fruit will ripen. At the start of each month, we send an email to all fruit donors who their fruit ripens that month. The email asks if you expect to have excess fruit. We ask that you respond to that email. When you anticipate that you will have excess fruit, we add your tree to a harvest route.

The email asks if you expect to have excess fruit. All you have to do is take a look at your tree and respond to our email. 

Some years you may not have any fruit to donate, but because you responded, our system will put you on top of the list for next year.

When you anticipate that you will have excess fruit, we will add your tree to a harvest route.

Some fruit donors ignore our email and wait until their fruit is ripe. They then expect us to fit them into an existing harvest. We do all that we can to accommodate them, but many do not get serviced. If you do not respond to our email, we assume you have made alternate plans and are not interested in working with us. We give your spot to the next donor. Please note if we send three emails and get no response, we assume you have moved, and our system will drop your registration.

Please look for our email and respond. We give priority to fruit donors that cooperate and communicate with us.

When Will You Get Here?
The most common question we get from new fruit donors is when will you come and harvest my tree? The answer is, it depends. To better understand this answer, let’s walk through three quick examples.

Example that Works
This weekend, we have a harvest planned for your neighborhood, i.e., Walnut Creek.
The harvest has an open stop (not all harvests have open stops.)
You just registered your tree.
We can add your tree to the harvest route and service you this weekend.

Example that Does Not Work
Last weekend we harvested in your neighborhood.
You have a construction project that will start next week and want the fruit harvested now.
We will not be back to your neighborhood for 3 to 6 weeks, and your fruit will not last on the tree that long.
You should make alternate plans.

Example that May Work
Last weekend we harvested in your neighborhood.
You just found out about us and registered your tree.
We will not be back to your neighborhood for 3 to 6 weeks
If your fruit has short on tree hang time (i.e., plums or apricots) we will not be back in time to help you.
If your fruit can stay on the tree for a while (i.e., citrus) there is a good chance that we can help.

In general, we don’t promise new fruit donors that we can harvest their tree during the first year of registration. We do our best, but no promises.

Other Options
We have a large number of volunteers that are willing to harvest a single tree in their neighborhood. The catch is these volunteers are often available at the last minute. It’s usually a parent and two kids, or a person willing to harvest a tree because their work ended early.

If you have the flexibility to let volunteers come on short notice, we may be able to connect you with a volunteer. In general, as long as we have permission and access to the tree, we can harvest the fruit. You need not be present.

Keep in mind small teams do not carry ladders and may not be able to reach the high fruit on your tree, but harvesting some fruit is better than none.

Self Harvest
Harvesting your fruit is easier than you think. Call in your neighbor and offer to share some of the fruit. No one wants to see fresh fruit go to waste, and you may be surprised how many people are willing to help you.

Watch this short video on how to harvest fruit with a small crew and if you need help with anything (such as the address for a place to drop off the fruit) don’t hesitate to contact us.

About The Author

Siamack Sioshansi

Siamack is the executive director and co-founder of the project. He was born in a small village in southeast Iran where he learned about food and the importance of community resiliency. He attended Purdue University and worked for IBM and Apple Computers before starting a software company. He lives in San Francisco.

1 Comment

  1. William Besson

    Thank you for that important message. It was equally thoughtful, helpful, and purposeful… Exactly what I have learned to expect from The Urban Farmers. Keep up the amazing work!


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