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Gearing Up for Fruit Gleaning: Got a Tree?

July 16, 2009
Too many apples?

Too many apples? Register your tree(s)!

Let’s say you have an apple tree in your backyard. It’s late September and the fruit is starting to turn ripe. The first few apples are a blessing: crisp, fresh, and juicy, you eat them straight off the tree, or pack them into your kids’ lunch bags. Soon there are too many to eat fresh, so you start making apple crisps, apple pies, apple sauce, apple butter. But even your most frenetic baking-and-preserving efforts barely put a dent in the apples falling from the tree at an ever-increasing rate. There must be at least a hundred pounds of apples out there, you think to yourself. How could one family ever eat a hundred pounds of apples?

The Minnesota Project’s Fruits of the City initiative may be able to help. Our new fruit gleaning project, featured in The Star Tribune and City Pages, will send volunteers to harvest excess fruit from backyard fruit trees across Minneapolis and St. Paul (with the owner’s permission, of course) and donate it to neighborhood food shelves. Families that wouldn’t otherwise have access to fresh fruit will get it; volunteers will get to take home a few pounds of fruit for themselves; and the tree owners won’t have to deal with disposing of all of that excess fruit.

Successful fruit gleaning programs have been implemented on the West Coast, in cities like Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland. The LifeCycles fruit gleaning program in Victoria, British Columbia, has been up and running since 2000 and harvested thirty thousand pounds of fruit last year. Village Harvest, in the San Francisco Bay area, donated more than 120,000 pounds to food shelves in 2008.

During the long Minnesota winter, we might daydream about moving to California and eating avocados and oranges right off the tree. But Minnesotans need not despair, because there is a wide variety of fruit that can thrive in our climate: apples, pears, plums, blueberries, grapes, hazelnuts, even kiwis. Throughout the Twin Cities, in backyards and alleyways, there are hundreds of fruit trees and bushes whose fruit often goes to waste. In the quest to make locally-produced and healthy food available to a wider segment of the population, the urban fruit harvest is a valuable and often overlooked resource – with great potential for expansion.

Earlier this year, Fruits of the City held three classes in Minneapolis and St. Paul to teach urban residents how to take care of new fruit trees or revitalize old and neglected trees. In coming years, we will partner with community organizations to plant neighborhood orchards on public lands, giving communities a direct stake in improving their access to good food.

Our goal for the first year of our fruit gleaning program is to harvest and donate 2500 pounds of fruit to local food shelves. To achieve this goal, we estimate that we need to harvest at least twenty-five trees. If you know of a backyard fruit tree in Minneapolis or St. Paul that produces more fruit than its owners can use, let us know so that we can contact them about participating in our project. You can also direct them to our website for more information. And if you are interested in volunteering to help with our gleaning efforts, call Ben at (651) 789-3320 or e-mail us at localfoods@mnproject.org

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ms. Daryl H. Lamon permalink
    July 20, 2009 8:35 pm

    I read about registering a tree for volunteers to glean fruit for the foodshelves but cannot find that info now. Do you do that for trees in Bloomington?

    • July 21, 2009 4:27 pm

      Hi Daryl! Thanks for your interest. For more info on our fruit gleaning program, please visit http://www.mnproject.org/food-FruitGleaning.html.

      We are currently adding suburban trees to our database, so please follow the process on the page linked above to register your tree(s). Most of our volunteers are from the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and therefore our initial focus is on trees within the limits of these two cities. We may have capacity to glean trees in Bloomington and other surrounding suburbs as well–as the program grows, we may be able to establish local gleaning teams all around the metro–so stay tuned!

      Thanks so much,
      Jennifer Blecha
      Local Foods Program Manager
      jblecha@mnproject.org

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