* Editor’s note: This story originally published in May, 2013.
Yolo County farm fields bloom perennially with a diverse range of crops, part of California’s reputation as a provider for the world. However, the fruit grown in many of Davis’ own back yards often goes to waste.
The Davis branch of Village Harvest marked its fourth anniversary in May. The organization now boasts a contact list of 600 volunteers, more than 500 of whom have harvested at least once. However, the large-scale nature of the Davis Village Harvest is a far cry from its beginnings.
Retired couple Greg Gibbs and his wife Pam volunteered extensively for then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008. After his election victory, they received a campaign email encouraging supporters to continue volunteering and engaging their communities.
“That inspired me to get actively involved with something in the community,” Gibbs said.
The Gibbses were approached by another couple who were interested in the San Jose-based organization Village Harvest, which led them to help establish the Davis branch. They now form part of the eight-member committee.
The Village Harvest ethos centers on donating the harvested fruit to local agencies that aid the hungry.
“When we first started, it was literally a matter of going down the street and seeing a tree full of fruit, and knocking on the door and asking if we could pick their fruit,” Gibbs said. “Little by little, we’d get more people to let us pick their fruit.”
The Davis Village Harvest has grown to accommodate a list of 300 active homes. Because Village Harvest is a 501(c)(3) organization, homeowners not only donate food to the hungry, but can also receive a receipt stating that they made a donation. Homeowners then qualify for a tax-deductible donation equivalent to the supermarket going rate for the amount of donated fruit.
“The main thing is it’s a win-win situation,” Gibbs said. “We help homeowners get rid of fruit that would otherwise go to waste anyway, and we donate it to organizations that help feed the hungry. It’s just a very satisfying situation.”
The Davis branch is currently in its busiest season, citrus, which runs from late January through June, and now picks about twice a week. An average annual harvest in Davis ranges from 25,000 to 30,000 pounds; Davis Village Harvest has so far reached 21,065 pounds, according to its website tally.
“It’s a pretty straightforward, simple project,” Gibbs said. “It’s just a matter of getting enough people to do it and enough houses.”
The Davis Village Harvest has reached an equilibrium with its volunteers, which draw from a multigenerational base; many of the volunteers are from local service sororities and fraternities. However, the Davis branch welcomes more, particularly volunteers with large vehicles and equipment, such as basket pickers, ladders and simply boxes for holding the fruit.
“It’s a been a good four years,” Gibbs said, though he says he does not plan on stopping anytime soon.
The Davis Village Harvest donates primarily to STEAC. Updates and contact information about the Davis Village Harvest can be found at villageharvest.org/Davis.