Hi everyone! I just joined City Fruit this past February as the harvest coordinator and public fruit tree steward! As City Fruit enters its 15th harvest season, we find ourselves adapting to a unique set of challeneges – colder weather may mean less fruit this harvest season, and then the spread of pest and disease in our local orchards continues. However, we’re starting to ramp up efforts to ensure a successful harvest and expect a full harvest team ready to go in June. I’ve been actively outreaching to neighbors in our bordering Eastern and Southern communities to get more trees in our system for harvest.
Do you have a fruit tree? Now’s the time to get engaged! In order to meet the needs of our ever expanding list of partners with food banks and meal programs and to be prepared should some of our trees not produce as much fruit, we need the help of you and your neighbors! Sign up to have your tree harvested and share your fruit with your neighbors by filling out our form here! Don’t have a fruit tree and still want to help us out? Print out our outreach flier here, and feel free to distribute it with neighbors who do!
Our harvest program serves individuals and families in Seattle experiencing food insecurity by providing organic, healthy fruit that is often unavailable at food banks and meal programs. Most food bank donations are shelf-stable foods meaning that the fruit we give is important for ensuring that individuals and families accessing food assistance have a variety of options to choose from. Each year, our harvest team picks good fruit from residential and public trees that may otherwise go to waste and distributes this fruit through partnerships with 30 food banks, meal programs, and elementary schools, and nonprofits. We’ve also been forming partnerships with local cideries, bakeries, and other diversion partners to ensure that the fruit might not be good enough to distribute to residents in a dignified way. This upcoming summer we’re also looking into expanding our in-house processing operations so get ready to see some City Fruit jam and other yummy products! Additionally, we’re looking forward to bringing back our free fruit farm stands and will be adding a few new locations so look out for us at community centers, P-Patches, and farmers markets across the city this summer and fall.
We’re expecting the demand for harvest fruit to be particularly high this upcoming season. Researchers at the University of Washington have been tracking the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the food needs of residents all over the state. Their report in February documented that the levels of food insecurity in our state remained high, disproportionately impacting BIPOC communities, our trans and non-binary neighbors, and families with children. Despite there being relatively little changes in levels of food insecurity, the pandemic funding to SNAP is expiring soon while, with inflation, food remains as expensive as ever. With inventory down at food banks and meal programs around the state, we’re hoping to ramp up the number of partners we distribute to and expand the number of communities we serve to include Kirkland, Bellevue, Shoreline, and Burien.
As many of you may know, 2022 was a challenging year for fruit growers across the state. We heard from dozens of tree owners across Seattle that their fruit trees hardly produced any fruit – some for the first time in nearly 40 years! In past years, we’d be able to harvest 300 pounds of plums from a single tree, but in 2022 we were harvesting roughly half that amount, if any, from the same tree. An abnormally cold and wet spring last year impacted pollination and plant development leading to fruit production being down. So far, these past few months have also been colder than usual. With climate change, we’re planning for pretty unpredictable weather conditions moving forward and we’re not sure how our urban canopy will respond. To ensure that we continue to serve our communities, we need to be proactive about having more trees to harvest from in the future.
Julian, Tiare, and our incredible groups of volunteers have been hard at work pruning to maintain tree health and spur healthy fruit growth. We hope to make sure City Fruit can best meet the needs of our food bank and meal programs partners, and are asking more tree owners to sign up to share any abundance of fruit. If readers are interested in sharing their fruit with their neighbors, they can sign up their fruit tree here or email [email protected].
Thanks for reading! If you find City Fruit’s work important to protect fruit trees and harvest hyperlocal fruit for our food system, please consider donating this GiveBig!