by Helen Bache

Two years ago, my small urban back yard orchard produced so much fruit that I called the Gleaning Project to help with the harvest and distribution of the apples, pears and plums.

Before I knew about the Gleaning Project, I had already picked several boxes of fruit and brought them to the Wednesday food distribution program at nearby Mason Methodist church. After several trips and many boxes of fruit, I asked if there was someone who would help me pick the top branches, heavy with fruit and far out of my reach. The staff suggested a telephone call to the Gleaning Program.

After I called, a couple who volunteered from St. Leo’s Parish came with ladders and boxes and willing hands. They picked and delivered many boxes to St. Leo’s Kitchen and the Union Gospel Mission on their visits. After each visit, they asked me if I had enough for my personal use.

I was so grateful for their help and told my family and neighbors about the program. We were all blessed by the abundance of my fruit trees and the generosity of the Gleaners.  The program gave me the opportunity to share in a way that was not possible on my own.  I needed the team of many people working together to share fresh, local food.

It was my most satisfying harvest.

This past February, The Pierce County Gleaning Project transitioned into a program of the Pierce Conservation District and found a permanent home. Call the Gleaning Project:  253-278-6215

A new program, the 2014 Fruit Tree Steward Program will begin with registration at  until January 15, 2914.  This 7-part educational program is intended for people interested in learning more about fruit trees and in preserving Pierce County’s urban orchards by stewarding fruit trees. Over the course of five months, you will become competent in fruit tree care, meet like-minded community members, and help enhance the health of our urban orchards.  This comprehensive program covers a wide variety of topics including grafting, pruning, and turning an orchard into a food forest.  There is a fee, with scholarships available.

Remember the Gleaning Project next summer.  Call 253-278-6215 a week before your fruit is ripe. Volunteers are needed to help build a culture of abundance, reducing food waste and increasing access to fresh, local fruit.

Help fight hunger in Pierce County!