Project Pick

Sharing Backyard Fruit and Community Spirit

Got a fruit tree in your backyard? Then you’ll know how plentiful the harvest can be! It’s not a surprise that fruit often goes uneaten as many owners are too busy or physically unable to harvest. Others simply have more than they can possibly eat or give away.

That’s why the nonprofit Alameda Backyard Growers started Project Pick, a gleaning initiative in the City of Alameda. “Our mission is to save surplus backyard fruit from going to waste and instead get it to folks who appreciate it,” explains project coordinator Jill Saxty. It sounds simple but involves a lot: finding and reaching out to fruit tree owners in need of harvesting help, recruiting and training volunteers to help do the gleaning, and coordinating with the Alameda Food Bank, which distributes the fresh fruit to the families they serve.

“Since we started about a decade ago, we have gleaned some 23 tons of citrus, apples, plums, persimmons, and other fruit,” says Saxty. And that’s just making a small dent—she estimates that in Alameda alone, five times more surplus backyard fruit goes unharvested.

Bringing People Together

Project Pick not only saves food and feeds people but builds community. As Saxty puts it: “We’re neighbors getting to know neighbors and together contribute our time and energy—and extra harvest—to a good cause.” The fresh fruit is in high demand at the Alameda Food Bank, where customers love that it was grown and harvested in their own community. “You can’t eat much more local than from your neighbors’ yards,” says Alameda Food Bank director Cindy Houts. When her pantry offers Project Pick harvest, it’s usually gone in no time. Houts appreciates the organized, consolidated fruit drops, since her busy staff can’t accept individual backyard fruit donations.

Growing a Crop of Gleaners

When Project Pick gets harvesting requests from outside Alameda, they refer fruit tree owners to other gleaning groups, but not enough East Bay cities have one. As a solution, Saxty decided to propagate the concept. Collaborating with Alameda County public agency StopWaste, she created a detailed guide for budding gleaning groups everywhere, covering everything from volunteer recruitment to tools and marketing. “It’s just another way we want to share with others,” says Saxty. “Fruit, knowledge, ideas … there is abundance if we just put our minds and hearts to it.”


Click here to learn more about Project Pick, download the Gleaning Guide, and find gleaning organizations near you!


Quick Plum Preserve

Make it last! Jams, jellies, and preserves are a great way to extend the life of abundant backyard fruit.

Yields about 2½ cups

  • 2 pounds fresh plums, halved and pitted
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Coarsely chop plums and stir together with water, sugar, and cinnamon stick in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally (more often toward the end of cooking) until thickened and reduced to about 2½ cups, 45–60 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick and cool preserve. Transfer to an airtight container and chill. Keeps at least one month in the fridge.