Harvest Leader Manual

  Misc: tough decisions

The decision at the back end of crops’ ripe period is often the hardest. If we pick a crop a little early it's no big deal. Consider that if you opened a pack of cherries and found a few too unripe, you would eat the rest and maybe see if the others ripened. But if you opened a pack of cherries and found a few that were rotten you would toss the whole pack. Green doesn't spread; rotten does. And once they get to MPFS - especially if we have pre-packaged them, if they are too far gone it's a real mess. They do not have resources to pick over them, and there is no easy way to even dump them. It would damage our credibility and, if they send out the fruit, theirs as well.

Our standard line to pickers at orientation is "Don't donate anything that you would not take home yourself." That's usually a useful and easily remembered rule, and we use it to try to make sure quality is high enough. But sometimes it's not strict enough because:

• Some of our pickers may have lower standards for what they would take home than for what we would donate.
• Pickers may take home marginal fruit and sort it better there, but we and MPFS cannot do that.
• At large harvests it is inevitable that some pickers are not very skilled and will pick inefficiently and with erratic quality control. And they don't listen to orientation as closely as they should. If we send them into a crop that is too late, we will inevitably receive unacceptable produce at the donation station.

In the tough cases we have to have the strictest standard at the truck. It could happen that we decide at a harvest to just tell everyone, “Take all the fruit yourself, nothing is going back on the truck.”

Here are options that in some circumstances would be the BEST thing to do. Every harvest leader should know that these are possible, that they have the authority to make the decision, and it might sometimes be best to:

1. Just say "no" to the owner when a crop is scouted. This happens a lot with backyards because the quality and quantity are so variable and the owners not so knowledgeable. Of course, it's harder to tell a farmer that, but it can be necessary.

2. Call off the harvest completely even if it is late. That would mean sending an eMailer note to all who are signed up, having an alert posted on the web page, and having one person at the site to turn away people who do not get the message. Those might be much better steps to take than to carry through with the full logistics and hope for the best.

3. Assign all possible helpers to sort fruit at the truck even if it slows everything down a lot. That could cut way down on how much gets on the truck, but it could be better than letting bad produce onto the truck.

4. Draw the line at the truck and let pickers take everything home.

Harvest leaders:
Have the ultimate responsibility for the fruit that is donated.
Have the authority to make any necessary decisions to prevent poor quality produce from being delivered
Both of the above