Sunday, March 27, 2016

Volunteer Opportunity: End of Winter Fruit Gleaning

When I was looking for a home in Sacramento, I was touring the different neighborhoods in Midtown in December. I loved seeing the different homes and apartments with ripening citrus trees. As a girl from the East Coast, I remember looking forward to the winter months full of mandarin boxes lining the stairwell to our attic. Just like then, you can find me consuming three or more of these gems a day when they are in season.

After living in the City of Trees for two months, I began getting frustrated on my walk to the gym or the local cafe. Dotting the ground in a pool of sweet juice were once perfectly ripe oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. I could not stand the food waste that was happening in our community, and articulated my revulsion at any opportunity I could get at networking events. At this point, I was introduced to Soil Born Farms.

Soil Born Farms is a local agricultural organization dedicated to empowering youth and adults to create a sustainable urban food system through educational and volunteer opportunities. Harvest Sacramento is a gleaning project where volunteers pick fruit from neighborhood homes on Saturday morning and then donate the produce to a food bank in the area. One of the mornings I volunteered, my group of eight people collected over 600lbs of citrus in three hours. Not only was it fun seeing the exploring various yards of Sacramento, but I loved building a community with the other volunteers. The volunteers came from all different neighborhoods in and surrounding Sacramento as well as different cities. My favorite quality of the volunteer group was the range of ages. There are always young adults, professionals and retirees. I can't think of many other spaces where there is such age diversity.

In addition to gleaning fruit, one can also volunteer on Sunday morning and afternoons at the Sacramento Natural Co-op learning how to preserve the picked fruit.  A portion of the fruit is preserved and then sold at the Soil Born farm stand. The proceeds go to pay for the maintenance of gleaning equipment. I attended one of the jarring session where Janet from The Good Stuff  showed us how to make blood orange preserves and salted lemons. I worked during the morning shift where five other volunteers showed up. We first cleaned the jars and citrus. Then we chopped the blood oranges and combined them with sugar on a stove top. While waiting for the ruby sauce to boil, we prepared the lemons by cutting them into wedges and combing them with a spicy salt mixture. We then stuffed the salty lemons in and secured the jars. After the concoction came to a consistent boil and temperature, we could then jar the jam. Volunteers were able to take recipes and a jar of each with them home.

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