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Volunteers Mulch, Plant, and Glean for Good

Investing in the future’ can mean anything from financing a company to starting a family. Two activities that exemplify this phrase well: planting a tree and harvesting surplus fruit to feed the hungry. Investing one’s time? Check. Building a better future for our communities? Absolutely. Having fun? Definitely!

On Saturday, March 18, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a very special event at Ethel I. Baker Elementary School, co-hosted by Soil Born Farms’ Harvest Sacramento and Growing Together programs and the Sacramento Tree Foundation. The event was a tree planting/neighborhood gleaning activity which brought out over 80 volunteers to the school, which is located in the challenged Fruitridge neighborhood in South Sacramento.

We had the chance to dig in the dirt, plant trees, pull weeds, load wheelbarrows filled with mulch (mulch courtesy of SMUD – thanks!), pick oranges with 16-foot poles, and eat an outstanding lunch prepared by Soil Born Farms. While many of us were shoveling dirt, two teams of gleaning volunteers mobilized to harvest 1,300 lbs. of fruit from trees in Tahoe Park, Oak Park and the Pocket Area for donation to Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

There are few things as satisfying as getting to know your fellow community members, completing a physically exhausting work session with a great deal to show for your efforts, and then sitting down with new friends for plentiful amounts of homemade white bean soup, salad, bread, and shortbread cookies(!).

For a 3-hour event, the impact was extensive:

  • 1,300 lbs. of food harvested for donation to Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services
  • 19 trees planted – 5 shade, 11 citrus, 2 pomegranate, and 1 peach tree
  • 3 truckloads of mulch spread for a new native plant garden, citrus orchard, and underneath many of the mature shade trees on campus

Harvest Sacramento’s ‘Citrus Season’ winter events have come to a close, but there are still many ways to get involved. If you have a fruit tree in your yard in need of harvesting, you can get involved by filling out the Fruit Tree Donation Form. The team is seeking to expand the number of active neighborhood harvest groups by training more harvest leaders and coordinators. There will be harvest leader trainings offered on April 15 and May 27. I have gone through the training and can confirm that it is well worth the time!

Soil Born Farms’ Harvest Sacramento program has been an impactful initiative since it began in 2009. This most recent season alone, 33,000 lbs. of fruit has been gleaned from 160 homes in our region, with the help of 675 awesome volunteers. Harvest Sacramento has also been a prolific user of the CropMobster Sacramento online exchange, which helps them recruit volunteers and promote their neighborhood gleaning events.

If you’re looking for similar volunteer opportunities, We Diggit Urban Gardens is another great program and happens to be a collaboration of The Yisrael Family Urban Farm, Soil Born Farms, and Sacramento BHC, with funding from The California Endowment. Volunteers can help community members in the Oak Park area build their own home gardens, alleviating food access and nutrition challenges in these communities.

To stay in touch, please follow Harvest Sacramento, Soil Born Farms, the Yisrael Family Farm, the Sacramento Tree Foundation, Valley Vision, and CropMobster Sacramento on social media.

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Adrian Rehn is a Valley Vision Project Associate working in the food system, broadband, and communications portfolios.

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