Past Featured Food Rescue Agency
Agencies in the Portland region work hard to feed hungry Oregonians. Read about their efforts.
Featured Agency: The Portland Fruit Tree Project
The Portland Fruit Tree Project brings people together to salvage quality fruit.
The Portland Fruit Tree Project is known for gleaning from fruit trees on residential properties. Less known is their impressive coordinated effort to glean from commerical orchards.
In a year when market prices for crops are too low or crops are in abundance, businesses may find the harvest process too expensive. Director Katy Kolker explains how during one abundant season “the growers would get less for the cherries than they pay for the harvesters.”
Meanwhile, growers know customers expect an aesthetic in food products. A blemished fruit might be healthy and edible, but not marketable. In 2013, hail storms damaged a pear crop, so the Fruit Tree Project gleaned the crops to help a food bank provide healthy, fresh produce to its clients.
Commercial growers face economic challenges from volatility in markets. When they can end up with an excess of edible surplus that’s too expensive to harvest or too blemished to sell, the result is waste. Why let so much healthy, nutritious food go to waste? That’s where the Fruit Tree Project steps in.
The Fruit Tree Project has several paid staff but otherwise relies on a steady stream of regular and highly trained volunteers, to help glean from the crops and deliver products to other hunger organizations. Volunteers from low income households keep a portion of what they glean.
The Fruit Tree Project supports growers, the hungry and reduces food waste, but that’s not all. They also have fun. A gleaning effort at a large orchard is a harvest party with a crew of 20-70 hard-working volunteers and some staff. The growers enjoy hosting these events and can trust that safe handling and safe harvesting practices are followed.
Currently, the Fruit Tree Project hosts about 6 Harvest Parties a year at large orchards but hopes to grow and hit 20 a year. Fortunately, given their mission and the opportunities, growth seems inevitable.