Front yard harvests yield plenty for Whatcom County food banks

Hand picking apple

By Stefanie Donahue

Ignoring the fruit growing on your front yard apple tree again this year? Local gleaners ask you to reconsider.

It’s peak season for gleaning, the practice of gathering food left behind after harvest. Whether it be from a commercial farm or picked off a small fruit tree on someone’s residential property, local gleaners with the Bellingham Food Bank are prepared to harvest fruit and vegetables for donation.

“Anything that we glean is made available to any of our partnering food banks,” said Max Morange, agricultural programs coordinator with the Bellingham Food Bank.

Each year, volunteers with the Bellingham-based Small Potatoes Gleaning Project, under the guise of the Bellingham Food Bank, harvest more than 200,000 pounds of produce.

Most gleaning is done on private property in Blaine and Birch Bay, Morange said. This year, they’ve harvested plums and apples from homes in the area. The Blaine Food Bank is one of the many direct recipients of donations from local gleaners.

Before gleaners begin their harvest, Morange must facilitate a conversation with the property owner to estimate the size and ability of his team to complete the task.

Once approved, he emails a list of about 350 to 400 volunteers to gauge interest and build a crew.

Five to 10 times per week, Morange and volunteers spend about two hours at each location harvesting fruit and vegetables for donation. Property owners are not expected to participate, he said.

They’ll take anything that is cosmetically blemished, seconds as he calls them, or something that doesn’t have a market that year, particularly on commercial farms. The team does not accept anything that has fallen to the ground or is damaged by pests.

To learn more about the Small Potatoes Gleaning Project, visit bellinghamfoodbank.org/getting-great-food/small-potatoes/ or call 360/676-0410.

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