Village Harvest is a nonprofit volunteer organization in Northern California whose mission is to provide food for the hungry, preserve our heritage and skills, and promote sustainable use of urban resources. We organize and coordinate backyard fruit harvesting, and provide education on fruit tree care, harvesting, and food preservation.
We are nationally recognized for our large Harvesting for the Hungry (H4H) program, which harvested 245,000 lbs. of fruit from local backyards and small orchards in 2013. A backyard fruit tree usually produces far more fruit than a household can use themselves, and there is more than enough going to waste from local backyards and farms to provide for our local community’s people in need. We address this food distribution problem by organizing volunteer teams to harvest backyard fruit and donate it to charitable food agencies and organizations. Our Fact Sheet (pdf) contains information for the Press and other organizations.
While Harvesting is our largest activity, a fruit tree is a resource for the community as well as the owner. We provide educational materials and advice on fruit tree care and harvesting, and on food preservation such as making jams and preserves from home-grown fruit. We also work with local public and private orchard owners.
Village Harvest is an IRS 501(c)(3) charitable organization, funded through private donations and the sale of volunteer-made preserves. Donations received are tax-deductible (Tax ID 04-3718164).
Who We Work With
Village Harvests works closely with food agencies and community groups throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Some of our many relationships include:
- Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties
- Community Services Agency of Mountain View and Los Altos
- West Valley Community Services
- Sunnyvale Community Services
- St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room, Menlo Park
- STEAC, Davis
- Food Bank of Yolo County
Mission and Programs
Our mission is to bring together neighbors and community organizations to provide food for the hungry, preserve our agricultural heritage and skills, and promote sustainable use of urban resources. We do this through the following:
Backyard Fruit Harvesting and Harvesting Coordination. VH organizes and coordinates volunteer harvesting teams to pick fruit and distribute it directly to community charitable organizations. We maintain computerized lists of homeowners who call and ask for help harvesting their trees, of volunteers interested in assisting, and of organizations who are able to redistribute the donated fruit to people in need.
Homeowner Education and Information. VH provides information and referrals at no charge on fruit tree care, harvesting instruction, and where to take their excess fruit. VH maintains a list of local organizations who accept and use fruit (or vegetables) directly from homeowners, and we encourage homeowners who are physically capable of harvesting their own fruit to do so.
Food Preservation Education and Resources. VH volunteers provide training sessions, tastings, and recipes on using home-grown fruit to create jams and other preserved foods. Educational sessions have been held for both adults and for younger volunteers such as 4H clubs. Volunteers use a small quantity of donated fruit to make preserves which are sold at crafts fairs and other nonprofit organizations to raise funds.
Orchard Preservation. Using our expertise in caring for abandoned or lightly maintained orchards, we assist public and private orchard owners in restoring the health and sustainable use of their orchards, with excess fruit provided to the hungry.
History and Accomplishments
Village Harvest was started in 2001 by founder Joni Diserens as a volunteer project of the Foundation for Global Community, 4H Club and the Master Gardeners, combining interests in fruit preservation, gardening, and making good use of abundant fruit for the community. When our first community harvest event in Palo Alto, California, yielded 1200 lbs. of citrus for the Food Bank and smiles all around, we knew we were onto something good. That first year an emerging group of volunteers harvested about 5,000 lbs., and the organization was formally incorporated in March 2002.
Since then we've grown to become one of the largest organizations of this type. With rapidly growing numbers of volunteers, homes, and recipients, we applied Silicon Valley technology and business skills to create the software and "virtual organization" that enable us to manage the thousands of homes and volunteers that now participate.
Village Harvest is a volunteer-powered organization, with over 1100 individual volunteers now contributing their time and talents every year in harvesting, preserving, and education. Our People page has information on organization leaders.
- In 2012, VH volunteers harvested 231,000 pounds of fruit from nearly 500 homes, donated directly to food agencies in Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Yolo Counties.
- 15-20 harvesting events every month.
- Since our founding in 2001, VH volunteers have harvested over 1.5 million lbs of fruit, 4 million nutritious Servings, benefitting as many as 100,000 people in the community.
- Village Harvest has over 2800 homes and orchards which have been harvested or requested harvesting assistance, and over 3600 registered volunteers.
Funding and Support
Village Harvest is funded through private donations and from sales of preserves made by volunteers. As an IRS 501(c)(3) charitable organization, our annual Tax Information Forms 990-EZ are public records, and anyone can examine where the money comes from and goes to (see Guidestar). As a volunteer organization we're able to make dollars go a long way.
Because of continuing local growth and requests for help from communities all over the US (and the world), we will be seeking additional support to expand into other communities and to assist other like-minded organizations.