From July to October each year, volunteers across Seattle harvest over 200 fruit trees for Lettuce Link’s Community Fruit Tree Harvest (CFTH). As a project at the intersection of gleaning and social justice, the CFTH addresses the problem of how many homeowners cannot fully harvest their trees, resulting in wasted fruit. The CFTH mobilizes the fruit and gets it to people who need it preventing it from rotting in someone’s backyard.
Started by Lettuce Link in 2005, the Community Fruit Tree Harvest was originally staffed by an AmeriCorps VISTA member and harvested 400 pounds of fruit in the Wallingford neighborhood. In the past nine years, the Community Fruit Tree Harvest project has grown into a city-wide operation that collaborates with the new local fruit harvest groups that have formed, including City Fruit and the Colman Park Harvest. Between these three organizations, people harvest fruit trees in all of Seattle’s neighborhoods. Across the city, volunteers share locally-harvested apples, plums, pears, Asian pears, figs, grapes, and more with food banks, meal programs, shelters, and low-income housing units.
From college students to retirees to parents with their children, the Community Fruit Tree Harvest resonates with volunteers of all ages and experiences. At a recent volunteer orientation, after sharing the history, goals, and nuts and bolts of the Community Fruit Tree Harvest project, Lettuce Link Harvest Coordinator Mariah Pepper concluded by framing the project in the larger context of volunteers working together for food justice and sustainable food systems.
“The Community Fruit Tree Harvest is more than a gleaning process,” Mariah said. “There is a reason we do things the way we do. We’re putting fresh food in the emergency food system. We’re using the community’s existing resources to strengthen the community and to make sure people with low incomes have access to fresh, healthy food.”
~ Victoria, Lettuce Link DukeEngage intern