Harvest Leader Manual

  Harvest: leading small harvests

The harvest leader is actively involved in all parts of small harvests as compared with farm harvests where many tasks are delegated. Backyard harvests offer their own kind of satisfaction in that the leader is in charge of the whole process and there is often a more relaxed atmosphere.

Because many volunteers have not experienced backyard harvests, the whole sequence is covered in this section even though it repeats parts of earlier sections.

Backyard crops - nearly all are fruit trees - are put on the Season Planner before the start of the season (see the Backyard harvest signup section of this manual). Other backyard crops are added to the Season Planner as they are registered if a preliminary scouting by the database manager shows that is the best plan. After Ripe harvest leaders sign up to lead and Green ones to co-lead, and as the ripe date approaches, the leader contacts the owner to verify that they crop is to be harvested and to arrange scouting, if necessary, and a harvest. Based on the first phone contact, some small crops may not need to be scouted at all. Some backyard crops need to be checked on several times before they are ripe as many owners are not good judges of this. It is better that fruit be a little under-ripe than over-ripe.

Backyard crops vary a lot from year to year. Some are productive about every other year. Sometimes owners register crops that are not worth picking due to pests or over-ripeness. Harvest leaders must be prepared to politely but firmly decline to harvest these crops. Merced County Gleaning's reputation with agencies and the community depends in part on our quality control. Some backyard crops have been harvested every year for many years and there is reliable information in the database to guide the leader.

Backyard harvest rosters are often filled by leader trainees and so may or may not be posted publicly. Harvest leaders may solicit other leaders or volunteers for the harvest. Anyone with a logon to the database may see the scheduled harvest and contact the leader if they want to be included.

If ladders or picking buckets are needed, the backyard harvest coordinator will know where to get them. Usually a short paperwork packet is all that is needed. The essential pieces are the Entry Authorization Form (if it has not been obtained), the roster and the Donation Form.

Work with the backyard harvest coordinator to locate boxes to pick into. Boxes may be found at the Merced County Gleaning storage container, other leader’s homes or at local area markets. For firm fruits like apples and pears, plastic bags can be used to transport and deliver the produce. Because many of these harvests are after-hours or on the weekend, produce may be delivered to food pantries such as the Union Gospel Mission or the Salvation Army Lighthouse Shelter.

At backyard harvests, the leader must bring supplies for hand washing. This may be as simple as a gallon jug of water, some liquid hand soap and a roll of paper towels. About a pint of water per person is enough.

Forms are returned to the database manager as with farm harvests. A record of paperwork received by the database manager can be found  here. Ripe harvest leaders have database access that lets them update crop information and the harvest summary so that next year's leader has more information to use.