A Note of Gratitude

2017 is shaping up to be another wonderful year for the Harvest Club, and sometimes we just need to take the time to celebrate. So, in September we took a weekend off from harvesting to do just that. OC Food Access Coalition invited all of our wonderful Harvesters, Growers, and Captains alike, for lunch to express our sincere gratitude in all that they do for our program.

And we have a lot to be thankful for. This year already, our volunteers have picked and transported over 67,000 pounds of produce to nearly 70 different hunger prevention programs. That is enough servings of fresh fruit and vegetables for over 170,000 people!

This program continues to grow year after year and we love these chances to enjoy quieter moments with all the people that make that possible. Thank you so much to everyone that came out to our Appreciation Lunch. It was wonderful to see you all! And even if you could not make it, know that you have our gratitude for all the support you have shown the Harvest Club. We could not do this without you.

 

Pickin’ Panther’s Produce

There is so much fruit in Orange County, and so little time to save it! Fortunately, the Harvest Club is not alone in its quest to bring it all into the hands of our hungry neighbors. The Harvest Club is proud to announce the roll out of its new Fruit Rescue program in partnership with Chapman University to save the bountiful harvests growing in the yards of the houses the University owns.

Chapman University owns over 80 residential properties in Old Town Orange that house members of their faculty and staff. These beautiful, historic homes have been a part of Orange for almost as long as the city has existed. It is a true treat to be brought on to take care of these old trees so representative of Orange County’s heritage.

Since the start of the program, the Harvest Club has already rescued over 800 pounds of fresh oranges, grapefruit and kumquats from Chapman housing. With the help of our amazing volunteers, all 800 pounds (which is roughly 2,000 servings) was packaged and transported to Mary’s Kitchen and the Friendly Center, both in Orange.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Harvest Club Challenge

IMG_3257On June 3rd, 2017, The Harvest Club gathered to make history. Meeting on an orange grove as old as Orange County itself, our Harvesters did what they do best; picking the fruit off the last remaining 50 orange trees to help feed thousands of our food insecure neighbors.

This year, the Harvest Club decided to do something different and pick the entire grove in a single day. 70 volunteers answered the call and were challenged to pick 5,000 pounds in 6 hours. 3 hours in and they had already picked 6,000.

By the end of the day, they had picked enough servings of oranges for 23,000 people!

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This harvest broke so many records for the Harvest Club! It was the most volunteers at a single harvest, the most pounds picked in a single day, and the most people fed in a single weekend.

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For all of you that participated, in any way, thank you! We are always amazed by the generosity and commitment our volunteers, donors, and partners show to the Harvest Club, but never has it been made so clear to us just how dedicated and loyal the Harvest Club community has become. The impact you have made on this community is immeasurable, touching everyone from the person receiving the fruits of your labor, to the growers in need of a little help getting the fruit off their tree. We are truly grateful for all that you do!

Don’t Exterminate, Relocate!

By Leslie Grace Sulite

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Photograph by Sonora Ortiz

Did you know that 30% of our food supply is pollinated by the honeybee? That’s 1 out of every 3 bites of food we take!

When you see a bee hive on your property, reconsider that phone call to the exterminators and make a call to your local bee rescuers instead. Bees will safely be rescued, removed and relocated ensuring that these valuable hives will continue to thrive and provide pollination and support to our local ecosystems.

Why should we rescue bee hives?

Over the past decade there has been an alarming rise in Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon where worker bees of a hive or a whole colony of honeybees disappear. This is detrimental to our environment as bees are an indispensable player in our current ecosystems. Honeybees are responsible for pollinating a great amount of our agricultural crops, local farms, gardens and public parks.

Benefits of the rescuing the honeybeeshoneybowl

Honeybees were imported from Europe for the sole purpose of increasing agricultural crop yields and to feed an ever growing population. Despite their non-native origins, they are a valuable player to our environment and to our local communities.

  • Pollination by honeybees can lead to an increase in local food production in our local farms, public parks, and your backyard garden.
  • Because of the honey, honeycomb, pollen, beeswax and royal jelly that a colony of bees can produce, beekeeping can be a great small business and contribute to economic development.
  • With the use of pesticides, poor diet and disease, bee colonies have been dwindling. However, through rescuing these hives and beekeeping, diverse food choices can help these hives survive and thrive under the proper care.
  • Rescuing hives and beekeeping is a great way to reconnect with and appreciate the works of nature.

What should you do if you see a beehive on your property?

Don’t exterminate, relocate!

Remember that bees are here to help you and not hurt you. It is not recommended to remove and relocate beehives on your own since proper tools are required for safe removal and relocation of the hives. Improper removal of hives may lead to damage to your own property, health and to the hive and colony itself. Contact your local no-kill bee rescuers:

The Honeybee Hub: (949)342-5084

  info@thehoneybeehub.com

Backyard Bees: (714)501-5944

   jansbees@aol.com

Bee safe, bee happy!

A Most Fruitful Year

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Happy Holidays Harvest Club! This year, our office will be out for the last week of 2016, but I wanted to share with you the impressive final numbers before we left. Because they are truly amazing.

In 2016, 435 volunteers donated over 1,600 hours of their time to help us pick 82,000 pounds of fresh produce! To put into context just how high that number is, our second heaviest year was in 2014 with 52,000 pounds picked. Most importantly though, those 82,000 pounds provided 210,700 servings of fresh produce to 75 different food distribution agencies in Orange County.

There are no words to describe just how grateful we at OC Food Access Coalition are to our hard-working Harvest Club Volunteers and Backyard Growers. Without you, this would not have been possible. An extra special thank you to our Harvest Captains who lead the charge. Next time you are on a harvest, give your Captain a high five; it is their hard work that keeps the lights on.

We might have blown through all our expectations for 2016, but don’t expect us to slow down! We’ll see you all in January with a schedule full of juicy ripe citrus trees!

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Bring the Bees Back!

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Life on Earth is beautiful because of honey bees. We owe so much to these furry creatures, but sadly, they are dying off. And it’s because of us humans. Honey bee populations around the world are dropping exponentially at an alarming rate due to the human use of pesticides in industrial agriculture. When bees come into contact with these chemicals, many of them either become gravely ill or sterilized. As a result, numerous colonies around the world have suddenly “disappeared”. If these pesticides were outlawed, bees would perhaps be able to regain their numbers, but agricultural producers need the pesticides to protect their crops from being eaten. As a result, a political controversy formed, and politicians are reluctant to place the ban on these pesticides. However, many cities have begun to legalize an emerging urban practice that may aid in bringing honey bees back to their original numbers without causing collateral damage to other industries, private urban beekeeping.

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A Harvest Club Record!

20160611_105934Congratulations Harvest Club! You have already reached our 50,000-pound annual goal. In 6 months!

This is an amazing, record breaking accomplishment, something we have never been even close to seeing before. It is hard to express exactly how deep our gratitude to our Harvesters, Harvest Captains, and Growers goes, but please know, that if you have ever participated in the Harvest Club in any capacity, we are so grateful to you.

We could gush on and on about how wonderful all our glorious volunteers and donors are and every last word of it would be true. However, I think actions speak louder than words. So save the date! September 24th will be our Harvest Club Appreciation Lunch. Join us as we celebrate all the people who have helped us reach this amazing milestone from our volunteers and drivers to our donors and distributors.

 

No Books in This Library

Written by Michael Wang

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A new movement is beginning. Libraries are centers of reading, learning, and quiet contemplation, but they are expanding their spectrum of resources to provide not only books to the public but also gardening seeds. Across the nation, libraries have begun to offer the public the opportunity to start their own garden by facilitating “seed libraries”. Seed libraries are stations holding vast catalogs of gardening seeds. These libraries within a library provide the people a chance to borrow seeds to begin their own gardening projects. However, the ultimate goals go beyond the yard work of gardening. Seed libraries represent a new movement, focused around connecting a community IMG_0498(1)through a brand new life style.

When you hear of a seed library, you might be expecting an enormous farm located on a wide roof, under the sky dome, covered with small gardens of fruits and vegetables. However, these seed libraries are nothing more than a desk, a shelf, and a clipboard. Their modest stature compliments their simple service. When you want to take a seed from the seed library, you need to first register for a free membership with the seed library, which should not take more than a couple of minutes at the desk. After the paperwork has been filled, you are allowed to shuffle through the large selection of seeds and pluck however many seeds you desire to use as long as you intend to use them. Then, you record your choice in the record books and head on home to begin your gardens. Starting your own garden is a difficult commitment, which is why the seed library also offers free tutorials hosted by the UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County administered by the seed library program. Patience is of the essence, so please do not rush and try to enjoy what you are doing with your garden. Trials and failures are bound to be commonplace but keep on trying. Once you’ve successfully finished your first harvest, the seeds that you collect from your fruits and vegetables will be eagerly accepted by the seed library who will need seeds from past patrons in order to be self-sustaining. This process is entirely based upon community honesty, virtue, and general interest in gardening: principles and ideas that both Megan Penn, the Executive Director of Orange Homegrown, and Linda Cundiff, the Executive Director of Orange Public Library Foundation, have no doubt that the people will be able to uphold.

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Megan and Linda are the founders of the seed library program in the Orange Public Library. They worked seamlessly together since late fall and were able to finish organizing and planning the entire program in record time by March 19, 2016. When I interviewed the two to ask about the difficulties each of them encountered with this project, to my surprise they both giggled and answered that the process was anything but difficult. The two of them attributed the ease of the work and the success of the library to their similar desires to create a better local community. For them, a seed library does not represent a charity but rather a new lifestyle for all people to participate in. For example, Linda IMG_0505told me about her hopes of seeing more young children in libraries, borrowing books to read and seeds to plant. She wants to help foster kids’ education through gardening. In the same sense, Megan wants to see not only children but also see adults begin a new lifestyle that is centered on living with nature. Megan and I talked about how this upcoming generation is so based around technology that many people have forgotten how to appreciate the warmth of the sun or the chill of the Santa Ana winds, little things like that. She and I both wanted people to drop their phones for a moment, and begin to explore nature and smell the roses. Luckily, numerous people share the same ideals, evident by the community’s reception of the seed library. In the short time that the program has existed, the Orange Public Library has had hundreds of members sign up for the seed library, and the number keeps rising daily. People come from all over Orange County  to Orange to participate in the seed library program. Kids and adults from all types of backgrounds are coming to Orange to pick a fruit or vegetable seed that they have always wanted to grow. There’s a genuine interest in gardening that is being fostered by these seed libraries and promoting natural living.

Linda and Megan wanted to give everybody the opportunity to come to the library and start planting seeds and see life through a new eyes. Seed libraries in a way are a testament to what libraries are truly meant for: to be centers for communities grow. In our modern culture, people have lost sight of how important a library really is to the nation. New learning and new experiences can happen at libraries as evident by the success of the seed libraries, but we just need the drive to search for them. So hop by the Orange Public Library, register at the seed library and start growing food. Donate food and donate seeds. Join a growing community of gardeners!

Record Breaking Winter

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If you have been following our Facebook page you might already be aware, but the Harvest Club has had its best winter to date. Of the last five months, four of them have broken new records for our monthly goals, sometimes by as much as 3,000 pounds.

IMG_0576We are expecting these wonderful achievements to move the goal posts we use to track our progress. For the last four years, the Harvest Club has dedicated itself to reaching an annual total of 50,000 pounds. In only the first three months of 2016, we are already half of the way there. At the time of writing, we have harvested exactly 25,438 pounds of fruit! To give you a frame of reference, this time last year, we had picked 12,797 pounds.

We have so many people we owe our gratitude to this year for our amazing growth. Once more, let me sing the praises of our harvesters, who show up week after week with smiles on their faces. Our growers also deserve our appreciation for their commitment to our community and warm welcome they extend to our volunteers. But there is one group of volunteers in particular that I would like to acknowledge for their dedication and generosity; our Harvest Captains.

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If you have ever harvested with us, you have undoubtedly worked with them. These are the men and women who lead their peers in harvests, connecting with growers, transporting both equipment and fruit, all while making sure everyone has fun and stays safe. Our Captains are seemingly tireless, sometimes taking on multiple harvests a month in an attempt to get as much fresh produce as possible to the food pantries. If it wasn’t for them, the Harvest Club would cease to exist. So next time you harvest, please give a huge thank you to Alyce, Amy, Ann, Cathy, Christine, Curtis, Dave, Dustin, Jeff, Jens, Kathy, Lucy, Melissa G., Melissa M., Ron, Susan, Suzanne and Timo. They are without a doubt our Harvest Club heroes.

On a New Years, Captains, and El Niño

Welcome to the New Year everyone! I hope when you all look back on 2015, it is with smiles and fond memories. It was certainly a successful year for the Harvest Club. In 2015, we had 360 volunteers donate over 1,100 hours of their time to pick nearly 49,000 pounds of fruit!

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We have a couple of things to watch out for in 2016. First, we are in desperate need of Harvest Captains to help us lead harvests this year. Without Captains, harvests cannot happen. Therefore, we are calling on the Harvest Club community to help us get a few more leaders in the field! Even if you can only lead a harvest once every two or three months, you are providing a huge help to the Harvest Club and hungry community in Orange County! If you would like to help, please e-mail me lharrison@ocfoodaccess.org.

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The second thing to watch out for this year is El Niño storms. Although all that rain is great for the trees, it’s not so great for the harvesters trying to pick them. The safety of our volunteers is our number one priority. If we have any reason to believe that a storm has caused unsafe picking conditions, we will reschedule or cancel a harvest as necessary. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

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To wrap up, I want to thank everyone that helped us in 2015. Whether you were a captain, a harvester, a grower, or a donor of another sort, none of this would have been possible without your support. With your help, the Harvest Club will only continue to grow this year. May you all have a very Happy New Year!