Harvest Leader Manual

  Misc: The Picking plan

Misc: The Picking plan

Volunteers may take home up to half of what they pick for their family’s use. There are several ways that harvests are organized for this: Free-form, Time Split, First Fill the Truck, and Container Quota. Which of these is used depends on several circumstances and is an essential part of the harvest plan. Which is selected must balance productivity, efficiency, volunteer satisfaction, and time and resource constraints. Each has advantages and disadvantages that should be weighed in planning a harvest.

The picking plan should never undermine the basic agreement that we have with volunteers: that they can take home up to half of what they pick. How the picking plan is chosen and carried out must always ensure that this is possible.

The picking plan must always be covered, with explanation of the reasons, on the Harvest page and at orientation so there is no confusion about it. Remember that some volunteers may have been to only harvests of one type and assume that is how it is always done. We do not want them to rely on the Terms of Agreement and then find out at the harvest that things are different. If the picking plan is unusual it should also be explained in the posted harvest info or the 'long info' in the signup email. 

Free-form - In a free-form harvest, volunteers decide for themselves how they want to manage their time as far as what they donate and what they take home. Some ways that they do this are: splitting their time, dividing produce at the donation station, or alternating containers. It is up to them to decide how to do it and is based on an honor system. This way is the most common type of picking plan.

Advantages

  • It allows volunteers choice and responsibility.
  • Estimates of the amount available and the time needed are not as critical. Volunteers can see for themselves how much is available, where it is and how long it will take to pick and adjust how they pick accordingly.
  • Does not restrict them as much as other types of picking plans and requires less leader and assistant oversight.
  • It spreads out the rush of donations over a longer time.

Disadvantages

  • More possibility of volunteers not making an even split of what they pick.
  • The produce may not be delivered as soon.
  • Volunteers efforts may be less focused and organized.

Time split - In a time-split harvest, the first portion of time (usually half) is designated for picking to donate and the second for picking to take home. For some crops, for instance blueberries, a half and half time split is reasonable. For others, for instance squash, volunteers may not need half of the full harvest to get all they want to take home and the time split may be different. But they should always be given sufficient time to get as much as they want up to half of what they pick.

Advantages

  • The truck is loaded and the donation station can be taken down before the end of the harvest.
  • Perishable produce (strawberries, heat…) gets into the cooler sooner.
  • Allows turnaround time for the truck if there are back-to-back sessions.
  • Better insures an even split of how much volunteers donate.
  • Best for team-style harvesting where volunteers are organized and directly supervised.

Disadvantages

  • If the split is not half and half, there is risk of volunteers not having enough time.
  • If produce is limited, the amount or quality or accessibility of what is left for them may be lower. This is a very bad outcome and should be avoided.
  • Volunteers with limited time may not have enough time left to pick for themselves.
  • Volunteers are more regimented and directed and limited in their options. This can adversely affect their experience of the harvest which is always an important consideration.

First fill the truck - This type has most of the same advantages and disadvantages of the Time Split type. There is added risk, however, if either the amount available to pick, or the time it takes to fill the truck are misjudged since volunteers may then have too little of either produce or time at the end. This type should be planned only when circumstances really require it and the produce amounts and time are well-known, and never just for convenience.

Container quota - Volunteers are given a set number of containers (clamshells, banana boxes) to fill. Instructions may vary from "Fill these first" to "Fill at least this many." (This is not the same as simply handing out the containers to use for donations in order to save extra handling. It is the quota aspect that makes it different. Orientation instructions should be very clear about this distinction.)

This is really a variation, depending on which of the above instructions is given, on the 'First Fill the Truck' and 'Time Split' types except that each picker is being assigned their portion of the truck or of the time spent picking. It shares the advantages and disadvantages of those plus a few more.

Advantages

  • Because produce is not first put into volunteers' containers and then transferred to other ones, there is less handling, less damage, and less wasted motion.

Disadvantages

  • Pickers vary a lot in how fast they pick and a standard quota cannot take this into account. Slower pickers will either not have as much time to pick for themselves or will leave empty containers in the field. Faster pickers may fill their quota and then keep more than they donate.
  • The estimate of where to set the quota may over or underestimate how much produce overall is available and how fast it can be picked with the results of getting less produce donated, too much for the truck or unhappy volunteers.
  • There is more chance of poorer quality in the donation containers if pickers rush to get those out of the way.
  • Because the containers are brought in already filled, quality control may not be as good.



Which of these is not one of standard types of picking plans:
First fill the truck.
Time split.
More for us; less for you.
Which type results in less handling and transferring of the produce?
Time Split.
Container quota.
First fill the truck.
Which of these picking types is most likely to give an even split of produce donated and produce kept?
Free-form.
Container quota.
Time split.
A large field of cauliflower that has not been picked at all yet is a good candidate for which picking type?
First fill the truck.
Free-form.
Container quota.