Since I am gardenless this season after our recent move, I am completely dependent on local farms and generous friends to help fill our harvest basket. I was delighted to discover a local non-profit called the Portland Fruit Tree Project just as harvest season began to roll in, which has kept us up to our eyeballs in fruit.
This particular organization has been around for several years. They work with local property owners to manage fruit trees that the owners no longer want to care for. They lovingly prune and care for these trees year round to maintain their health and increase their fruit production. The majority of the harvest gets donated to the Oregon Food Bank, but they have plenty to still share with their volunteers.
In exchange for sharing the harvest with you, they ask for donations on a sliding scale of $5-25 bucks. That, plus your couple hours of easy labor, adds up to a smoking deal for a pile of fresh fruit. Typically half of the day’s harvest gets donated to the OFB and the other half gets divided up equally among the volunteers.
You have to sign up in advance to volunteer for a harvest party, but it is SO worth it! You meet at the harvest site, clean up fallen fruit for the compost pile, then collect and sort the ripe fruit from the trees.
It was really amazing to watch these perfect strangers all come together for a bigger cause – connecting folks in need to healthy, fresh food. They exchanged stories about their home gardens or favorite canning recipes while sorting the harvested fruit. (The best stuff goes to OFB and we get the slightly blemished fruit.)
The setting was breath-taking both times I’ve harvested with them. The first time it was at this hillside orchard in outer east Portland. I reminded me of the rolling hillsides of Italy – just a much greener version.
The next time I volunteered it was more atypical. We met out in Hillsboro at a beautiful orchard – so a very rural setting. The farming family had a bumper crop of Gravenstein apples and Bartlett pears. That day we helped harvest thousands and thousands of pounds of fruit.
It was the first harvest party that I brought Juniper to and she had an absolute ball! It’s quiet a kid-friendly event – busy work, but not hard work. She was so focused on carefully placing fruit in the bins and took their recommendation to taste-test the fruit very seriously. I think we came home with at least a dozen apples that had tiny bite marks on them…
When we finished harvesting, we loaded up the car with about fifty pounds of fruit and headed home. She had a quick snack and proceed to completely crash out for the ride home. That girl played HARD. And all in the name of fresh fruit for everyone!