Volunteers pick oranges from orchard tree

We have just finished our largest harvest series of the year so far: a spring of Thursday evening and weekend morning orange orchard harvests that ran from March 30 to May 18. In 11 harvests, over 300 volunteers and many members of the farm family picked and donated a total of 91,532 pounds of delicious navel oranges to Second Harvest, which benefited tens of thousands of community members in need.

The "Giant Orange Orchard" is a navel orange orchard in North San Jose filled with 1,500 trees, a 14 acre island of the Valley's agricultural past surrounded by the tech companies and apartments of modern Silicon Valley. The farm family has owned the land for 107 years, and since they found Village Harvest in 2018, they have donated their entire crop to Second Harvest of Silicon Valley to help our community. The family helps to lead our harvests, too, driving farm tractors with special trailers that make it possible for volunteers to harvest as much as 20,000 pounds in a morning.

One of the continuing highlights this year was getting to harvest together with the 3rd generation family owner (Bob), the 4th generation (Andrew and Amanda), and the 5th generation (Andrew and Amanda's young children). We were also grateful to host several groups from local service organizations; families and friends who volunteered together; and all our new and returning harvest volunteers.

This year's harvests required extra care and planning, since the orchard needed to comply with California Department of Food and Agriculture regulations to combat the spread of a species of invasive fruit fly found in Santa Clara County. For almost two months before harvests could start, and continuing for six weeks into the harvests, farm family member Andrew traveled the length and breadth of the orchard to apply an organic fruit fly bait to around 350 of the orchard trees every 9 days. Back in December and January, Andrew had also studied and became certified by Santa Clara County just to conduct these fruit fly bait treatments. Without Andrew's commitment and physical effort, and the support of Second Harvest of Silicon Valley and donor Wilbur-Ellis Agribusiness who provided the materials needed for each treatment, none of our harvests and no donations of this orchard's delicious fruit would have been possible this year.

Holding a series of events like this takes community effort, time, and resources. We're grateful for the good spirits and hard work of hundreds of community members who made these harvests possible:

  • Over 300 harvesting volunteers, who brought their community spirit, family, and friends.
  • 15 of Village Harvest's volunteer leaders who stepped up to sustain many weekends in a row harvesting there. And special kudos to leaders Jim and Christel who participated in every Thursday harvest between themselves and handled many rounds of driving our equipment van to and from the orchard.
  • Farm family and staff: owner Bob continuing to support the harvests, donating the fruit, and driving tractors; and long time farm staff member Jose driving tractors and leading the final harvest.
  • Farm family member Andrew for his help driving tractors, making the Thursday evening Sunset Harvests possible, and months of work prior to the harvests making sure the orchard was treated in compliance with quarantine guidelines.
  • Village Harvest staff members Megan, Tracy, Susan, and Craig
  • Our partners at Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, especially Director of Food Sourcing Barbara Gehlen and Senior Manager of Food Sourcing Jennifer Toller, who coordinated with us to secure and provide funding for the materials needed to treat the orchard; and Senior Food Resources Coordinator Judy Bateh, for orchestrating the logistics of truck deliveries and pickups of nearly 95 bins over a month and half. And the many Second Harvest and food agency folks who distributed the oranges to many tens of thousands of people in our area who need healthy food.
  • Donors at Wilbur-Ellis Agribusiness, who donated 1/4 of the materials needed to treat the orchard.

THANKS and gratitude to all.

Here are a few photos from this season.