Backyard Harvest Program – We connect with residents who have surplus fruit to share, and organize harvests where people walk to nearby sites, or pick from a single property with many trees. Participants are welcome to take home fruit for themselves, and surplus is used in our fruit-preservation workshops or given away through local food distributions. These harvests account for the great majority of our events every year, engaging hundreds of participants and picking thousands of pounds of fruit.
Community Orchard Development – As we reap the bounty of trees planted by others, part of our mission is to cultivate the next generation of fruit trees, and to spread skills and knowledge related to tree care and propagation. We’ve been collaborating with the City of Santa Cruz to develop orchards on public park land since early 2015. See our community orchard page for more information.
Fruit Sharing Network – We cannot always harvest from every available site, but we also post offers to connect gleaners directly to residents with extra fruit. To protect privacy we avoid sharing addresses, instead posting the general location and contact information.
Fruit Processing Workshops – Some of our harvest events we pair with workshops on food processing and preservation. Examples range from curing olives to making fruit wines to whole-drying persimmons as hoshigaki. We also host cider pressings every year, with volunteers first harvesting apples and then pressing juice using hand- and pedal-powered equipment.
Pruning and Tree Care – Many of the trees we pick from have not been pruned for years or even decades, so we try every year to return to a few sites to tend to the trees. Currently our capacity for pruning is limited to just a few workdays a year, as the program is carried out entirely by volunteers. But with greater funding we envision a more extensive effort to rehabilitate and maintain neglected trees.
Sustainable Equipment and Transportation – Most of our events are designed around walking or bicycling, to promote sustainability as well as physical health and social interaction. Even fairly large equipment like our orchard ladder and cider press we usually transport with bicycle trailers, minimizing the use of fossil fuels, and modeling sustainable practices. Likewise, we built hand- and pedal-powered cider pressing equipment, as well as a solar food drier using mostly recycled materials. Check out our blog post for pictures and more information.
Food Festival Fundraisers – Since 2013, the Fruit Tree Project has organized two annual food festivals featuring gleaned fruit and other locally-harvested or fermented products, drawing up to 250 people. DIYine: A Celebration of Homebrewing is a wine-tasting event featuring homemade fruit wines, beers, mead, and soft drinks, as well as live music, h’ors douevres, a silent auction, and homebrewing workshops. Counter Cultures: A Fermentation Celebration is a broader tasting festival featuring all manner of fermented food and drink, from kefir and sauerkraut to sourdough, tempeh, and miso.