Harvest and Gleaning

Click on one of the following items for quick navigation: 

1) Schedule a harvest 2) U-Pick program 3) Common questions about the harvest.

Seattle is home to tens of thousands of fruit trees.  By working with volunteers, community partners, and local government agencies, City Fruit stewards these trees and harvests thousands of pounds of organic fruit from Seattle’s private and public orchards that we then share with communities across our city.
 

We distribute market-quality fruit to local food banks or meal programs, provide fruit that needs to be processed to local cideries or eateries, and share direct to neighbors through free fruit farm stands.

Do you have a fruit tree at home and want to share its bounty with your community? We have two ways for you to share your fruit! You can either: (1) Have a City Fruit team member harvest your tree OR (2) You can harvest your own tree through our U-Pick program.    

Option 1: Have a City Fruit team member harvest your tree

If you would like a City Fruit team member to harvest your tree, follow the three steps below:

① Tell us more about your tree!  Using the Register Your Tree form, tell us about the type, size, number, accessibility, and location of your tree(s)*.  You can register your tree with us at any point in the year!

 

② Schedule your harvest! 

 

③ Confirm your harvest date and prepare your tree!  

Please note: While we try our best to visit as many homes as possible to pick fruit, we are not able to harvest fruit from all authorized trees. Pest damage-free fruit that can be donated to food banks will be given higher priority. If you have buggy fruit, or if you are able to pick your own fruit, please consider picking your fruit and setting them into paper bags, totes, or boxes for a City Fruit staff or volunteer to pick up. Please see our FAQ below for more information on the types and quality of fruit that we are able to accept. 


If your tree is located on a steep slope, uneven ground, or precarious spot, we may be unable to effectively harvest your tree if a ladder cannot be safely used.

 

*Trees need to be registered only once. If you have registered your tree with City Fruit before you do not repeat this process. Your tree is already in our system! But you will still need to authorize your fruit to be harvested this year.

Option 2: Harvest your own tree through our U-Pick program

Picking your own fruit saves City Fruit time and resources, while allowing you to donate your fruit AND time with us. Simply pick your fruit and place them into paper bags, reusable totes, or shallow boxes, and let us know to come pick them up! (To avoid crushing soft fruits like plums and berries, please do not stack fruit).  Please email [email protected] or call our office line at (206) 922-3967 at least 2-3 days before you harvest so that we can plan when to come by to pick up the fruit.  You are also welcome to drop-off fruit at our office.

 

Don’t wait until the fruit starts to drop to the ground! If the fruit has already fallen, then we cannot donate this fruit to food banks, but we can set aside this windfallen fruit for cider makers who will press and ferment the fruit.  We CANNOT accept any fruit that has broken skin or large soft spots, as these fruits will mold quickly and contaminate other fruits in storage.  Donated fruit of this quality will be immediately composted.  Please see our FAQ below for more information on the types and quality of fruit that we are able to accept. 

Harvest FAQ

What is gleaning?

The USDA defines gleaning as “simply the act of collecting excess fresh foods from farms, gardens, farmers markets, grocers, restaurants, state/county fairs, or any other source in order to provide it to those in need.”  Gleaning not only diverts excess quality food from waste, but it can also help us see where there are gaps in support for how our food is being distributed.

What types of fruit can we take?

City Fruit can accept a wide variety of fruit types, including but not limited to apples, crabapples, grapes, quince, plums, figs, Asian and European pears, kiwis, persimmons, cherries, pawpaws, apricots, and pluots.  We also accept donations of berries and tomatoes, although we ask growers to please U-Pick these fruits.

Apples
Crabapples
Grapes
Quince
Plums
Figs
Pears
Tomatoes *U-Pick Harvest only*
Kiwis
Persimmons
Cherries
Berries *U-Pick Harvest only*

Can we take fruit that is undersized, bruised, or buggy?

As a food justice organization, City Fruit’s priority is to harvest pest-free, market quality (USDA Size 1 or 2) fruit to share with neighbors.  If you know that your fruit is undersized (Size 3+) or pest-damaged, consider harvesting your fruit through our U-Pick program.  We may be able to redirect it to partners who can process the fruit into sauces, jams, ciders, and more!  While we can accept fruit with mild bruising for immediate processing, we CANNOT accept any fruit that has broken skin or large soft spots, as these fruits will mold quickly and contaminate other fruits in storage.   

 

You may also register your tree with us if you’d like a City Fruit team member to help harvest your fruit.  However, because we have limited staff and prioritize market quality fruit, we cannot guarantee the harvest of your tree during the season.

 

If you’re a baker, cider-maker, jam-maker, and want access to damaged or undersized fruits, feel free to reach out to [email protected] for more information!

The two Asian pears on the left side of the photo are USDA Size 1/2. The two pears on the right side of the photo are USDA Size 3+ fruit. The rightmost fruit cannot be donated to a food bank, and would likely be composted.
The entry holes from common pests like the apple maggot fly or codling moth can be small and sometimes difficult to notice. However, they can cause immense damage to the inside flesh of the fruit. Always check near the stem and bottom of your fruit for holes and frass (insect poop that looks like sticky sawdust).

Why do I need to authorize my tree?

We ask tree-owners to re-submit a Harvest Authorization Form for their tree(s) every year in order to: 

(1) Confirm that they would like us to harvest from the tree again this year,

(2) Check that the tree is still present on the property (hasn’t been removed or cut down), and

(3) Ensure that the original tree-owner that first contacted us about the harvest hasn’t moved. 

 

Please note that even if you have registered your tree with us this year (or several years ago), we cannot pick your fruit until we have received a completed authorization form for the current year’s harvest season.

Why do you ask for photos of the tree and fruit before coming to harvest? 

The week or two before a scheduled harvest, a City Fruit harvester may reach out to request photos of the tree and fruit.  These photos help us understand more about the height and situation of the tree (example: if the tree is on a slope or near a fence), which can help us prepare ladders and other harvest tools accordingly.  Additionally, photos of the fruit’s color and interior flesh and seeds can help us determine whether or not your tree’s fruits are ready to be harvested.  Occasionally, if its difficult to judge ripeness from photos, your harvester may ask you to describe the taste of the fruit and/or to describe how easily the fruit detaches from the branch.

 

By sending us photos and providing this information about your tree and fruit, you help ensure that City Fruit’s time and resources are used effectively in order to harvest and distribute the most fruit to community.  You also reduce carbon emissions from team members driving to harvests that aren’t quite ready yet.  We thank you!

Will City Fruit send harvesters when I’m not home?

City Fruit is happy to schedule harvests for trees when tree-owners are not home.  However, tree owners are responsible for securing pets and unlocking gates, as well as sharing information about any backyard hazards (example: construction or loose pavement).  Please communicate with your harvest team member about whether or not you’d like them to harvest when you are present or away from your property.  If you have neighbors that share or look after a portion of your property, we ask that you please let them know that a harvester will be onsite.

 

A note: At no time may harvesters enter your home, garage, shed, or basement — the tree and any tools you would like us to use must already be out and accessible for the harvester. 

What can I expect the day of my scheduled harvest?

If a harvest team member is scheduled to come when you are not home, they will follow your instructions for how to access the tree.  Harvesters will pick as much of the fruit that is ripe and accessible, unless you request for them to leave a portion of the fruit behind.  Your harvester will follow-up with you after the harvest over email to share the total pounds of fruit picked.

 

If a harvest team member is scheduled to come when you are home, there are a few options depending on your comfort and availability.  If you are working from home and/or would otherwise prefer not to be disturbed, the harvester will follow instructions for accessing and harvesting your tree.  If you are home and would like to be notified of when your harvester has arrived, they will knock on your front door at the beginning of the harvest and again before they leave.  Harvesters will still follow-up after the harvest over email to share the amount of fruit picked.

 

For continued Covid-19 safety, all harvesters will have face coverings with them and will wear them whenever in proximity to others. 

Thank you for being part of our harvest!  Fruit is distributed to food banks and meal programs within 5 miles of where it was harvested.

 

Please contact us at our office line at (206) 922-3967 if you have other questions or if you need help with a harvest form!