Backyard Harvest. Spokane’s neighborhoods are filled with fruit trees. According to a 2012 tree mapping completed by the city of Spokane, there are around 7,000 potentially edible trees throughout the city. This means that there is an abundance of fresh fruit and nuts that can be used to help address hunger challenges in Spokane County and the surrounding communities. While many of these trees may be a part of some larger orchards, many homeowners have 1 or 2 fruit trees in their backyard. SETP’s mission is to educate and empower the community to take advantage of these amazing resources.
In order to connect with backyard fruit tree owners, SETP, again, tables at events throughout the community. At every event, a majority of the individuals that stop to talk to SETP either own a fruit tree or know somebody that does. This provides an opportunity for SETP to describe what their gleaning program entails, and what it means to be a fruit donor for SETP. Individuals are directed to the website where they can register their trees. The homeowner is added to SETP tree registry database kept in Excel spreadsheet (Name, Address, Phone, Email, Quantity of Trees, Type of Trees, Dates Harvested, Date Contacted, Notes).
Once the tree is registered, an email is sent to thank the donor for offering their generosity to the community. Then in May/early June, homeowners are contacted again to ensure that they are still interested in participating in the program. If so, tree owners are asked to call SETP about two weeks before their fruit is ready. This can be difficult because again, homeowners often are not educated in how to tell when this is. Often, the phone calls come when the fruit is already ripe, and it is then difficult to have time to organize volunteers.
Once a homeowner calls, SETP creates an event or reaches out to group leaders to advertise for the event. A public meet up location is provided so that private addresses are not made public. Then volunteers travel to the site. Gleaning waivers (attached) are filled out by all new volunteers. Ladder safety training is given and volunteers are also shown the proper way to harvest the fruit. Gleaning events typically last about two hours, as SETP has found that this is typically when volunteers begin to dwindle. After two hours, all fruit is loaded into SETP’s vehicle and taken to a local nonprofit partner.
If SETP is overwhelmed with many gleans at one time, homeowners are encouraged to organize their own glean with friends, and SETP will drive around to pick up the produce. This helps to reduce time spent on recruiting volunteers and advertising for the event, and also
encourages local neighbors to come together to harvest. In 2016, SETP also had one family who harvested trees throughout their community and then had SETP pick up the fruit. They harvested over 500 lbs as a family at various homes throughout their neighborhood. They advertised on their local Next Door page.
Spokane Edible Tree Project (SETP) was founded in 2013 by former Harvest Against Hunger Americorps VISTA Kate Burke. Through her work in a produce recovery position at Second Harvest Food Bank, she recognized the abundance of fruit trees in Spokane County and noticed that much of this fruit goes to waste. SETP was formed to fill this gap in the system and to empower the community to share the resources that are so abundantly available to them. SETP became a certified 501(c)(3) in 2015. The organization is currently run by community volunteers and a Harvest Against Hunger AmeriCorps VISTA.
In 2016, SETP recruited their first Harvest Against Hunger AmeriCorps VISTA, who served as the program coordinator for the organization. The second-year VISTA (2017-2018) expanded the program to include gleaning produce from the Spokane Farmers’ Market. Their third-year VISTA (2018-2019) continues to coordinate gleaning, outreach, volunteer recruitment, grant-writing, and educational programming. Together, the work of the three VISTA’s prevented more than 100,000 pounds of produce from going to waste in Spokane County. Additionally, WSU Extension of Spokane County has been a valuable partner for SETP, supporting and supervising the AmeriCorps VISTA. The extension office has also been an essential partner in developing SETP’s educational program.