2020 has been a year filled with challenges that tested our dedication, perseverance, and ingenuity. As we look back on 2020, we are proud of how we continued to pivot throughout the year, and still managed to make meaningful impact in our community despite all the challenges.
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Pizza & Pruning Orchard Parties
2020 was off to a great start with a series of Pizza & Pruning Orchard Parties before the pandemic turned our world upside down. Thankfully, we were able to host a handful Orchard Parties in January and February, and nearly 50 volunteers were able to join us in the orchards before the pandemic forced us to cancel the March events. Together, we pruned dozens of fruit trees to them ready for the harvest season, and we also got to share some pizzas too!
Spring fundraising campaigns and PPP loan
By March, we realized things could no longer be business as usual. In addition to the last few Orchard Parties in March, we also had to cancel all the workshops scheduled in spring, as well as the remaining Master Fruit Tree Steward classes. All those cancellations resulted in a significant funding loss, and we had to quickly raise money to make sure we could move forward with the upcoming harvest season. We received an enthusiastic response to our Spring Harvest and GiveBig campaigns that far exceeded our original goal of raising $15,000. In June, we also received a PPP loan which ensured that we had enough funding to complete this year’s programming.
Save Seattle’s Apples
Not being able to host work parties also impacted our annual Save Seattle’s Apples campaign significantly. Instead of soliciting help from volunteers, City Fruit crew either worked independently or with community partner organizations in small groups while social distancing. For larger trees that would require a large group of people to net, we opted to bag the fruit by hand, one apple at a time. It certainly wasn’t easy, but in the end, we managed to net about 80 fruit trees and bag nearly 2,000 apples.
Great Seattle Fruit Harvest
Then came the harvest season. What we all had been waiting for! While the generous contributions to our Spring Harvest Campaign and PPP loan made this year’s harvest possible, we still had to scale back significantly due to the budget cuts. In a typical year we would hire 3-4 seasonal harvesters, plus a few interns and SYEP students. This year, our budget allowed us to hire just one AmeriCorps harvester and a UW intern. Knowing the needs for fresh fruit in the community was higher than ever, we put a call out for a handful of dedicated volunteers to help harvest regularly during the peak season. We welcomed 6 Neighborhood Ambassadors, and they collectively harvested thousands of pounds of fruit that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to harvest.
Fruit for All pop-ups
To us, harvest season is not just about picking fruit. Even more importantly, it is also about sharing it with our community. And of course, COVID-19 made sharing fruit at the Fruit for All pop-ups quite challenging. We had to revise our setup significantly to ensure everyone’s safety, which meant pre-bagged fruit to avoid direct contact, socially distanced lines, lots of hand sanitizer and, of course, everyone wore a mask. After making those adjustments to our system, we were able to safely share 2,632 pounds of fruit directly with 743 community members at 12 Fruit for All pop-ups.
Orchard Work Parties
After taking a long break from hosting volunteer work parties earlier this year, resumed our Orchard Work Parties this fall with an abundance of safety precautions in place. Work parties were held in small groups (5 volunteers max), and all tools are sanitized before and after each event with hand sanitizer at the ready. Volunteers helped harvest the last remaining apples in October, and then we moved on to pest prevention by taping over 60 fruit trees to keep winter moths away.
Virtual City Fruit Celebrates
Every fall, we look forward to gathering with our friends, supporters, and community partners, and celebrating the end of the harvest season by raising a toast together. This year, of course, was different but no less special. Our annual event, City Fruit Celebrates went virtual with a cider tasting featuring local cideries, followed by a fruit-themed trivia hosted by none other than the Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings! We were also joined by State Senator Rebecca Saldaña who gave a moving speech about the importance of our fruit.
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We are amazed by how much we were able to accomplish this year, despite all the challenges we faced. However, the reality is, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our organization, and its effect is going to be felt beyond 2020. Last week, we learned that we lost $60,000 in city funding due to the sweeping budget cuts across the city, putting our 2021 operation at risk.
Now we need your support more than ever. If you believe City Fruit’s work – harvesting otherwise unused fruit grown in our city and sharing it with those who need it most – is important and should be protected, then please consider making a donation today. There are still so many more trees to care for, so much fruit to harvest and share, and more connection to be made to build stronger, resilient community. Thank you for your support.