Lemon Lady Anna Chan served food pantries in her community by collecting unwanted fruit off neighbors’ trees. Here are her tips for doing the same in your urban community.
1. Track Fruit Collection
The rewards quickly add up when you keep track of your accumulated harvest. (The average paper grocery bag holds 15 to 20 pounds of citrus fruit.) Chan knows her numbers and openly shares them with her blog readers.
2. Harvest Fruit Correctly
Research the best way to harvest a particular fruit for long-term storage. “Citrus clipped with some of the stem attached will keep much longer,” says Chan.
3. Communicate Clearly
Chan uses a simple one-page letter to communicate her story to homeowners for potential tree picking. Most of the time, no one is home when she knocks on doors to introduce herself, so this letter needs to move people to make the effort to reply back. Keep the letter short but personable; share some of your reasons for wanting to do this. Remember to include a telephone number and email address.
4. Stick to Front-yard Trees
Chan focuses on fruit trees in front yards. Homeowners are more willing to let you pick fruit this way, as they don’t need to be home when you pick. Chan also primarily picks fruit hanging low to the ground so she doesn’t need to lug around a ladder.
Connect with your local farmers’ market manager and food-bank organizers, and share your foraging idea. They probably will not only embrace and support your efforts, but also provide valuable information to move things along, such as identifying key farmers to talk to or the types of produce a food pantry would be able to accept and store.
Most counties have an official food bank; national organizations such as Feeding America also offer local connections. Food banks have varying facilities at their disposal, so be sure to ask what types of food donations they can accept.
6. Forage Fun
Remember to keep the foraging process fun and fulfilling. Like Chan experienced, once you get started, you can’t help but see all the potential foraging opportunities surrounding you. Realize you’re never going to collect everything available. Prioritize the people and relationships involved.
About the Author: Lisa Kivirist writes from Inn Serendipity, her farm and bed-and-breakfast in Wisconsin, which is completely powered by renewable energy and specializes in local, seasonal, organic cuisine. She is co-author of ECOpreneuring (New Society Publishers, 2008) and Rural Renaissance (New Society Publishers, 2004).