The Property Scout!

Science of the property to harvest flow.

Food Forward’s mission is to harvest food, fight hunger and build community.  In order to harvest food efficiently and to maximize our volunteer efforts, Food Forward prides itself on its systematic approach to prepare for each backyard harvest.  At Food Forward, we’ve devised a system to ensure values of fruit quality and safety are met at every event we harvest food at.  Once a fruit donor has registered their trees online in an area that we have trained volunteer Pick Leaders, we’ll give them a call or email.  The initial communication is usually to ask a few more questions about the fruit and the property to get a better idea of conditions, but to get a complete picture we need eyes (and taste buds) on the ground with trained knowledge of fruit and the harvesting process.  That’s where our heroes, the Property Scouts swoop in and give the fruits a little squeeze.  Through their report, we’re able to give the green light on a harvest event and gather enough information about the quantity of the fruit too so that we can efficiently distribute the fruit to those organizations that need it most. With the proper preparation, we can show up with enough people and equipment to get the job done at the time the fruit is at its prime.

Why we started property scouting.

In the beginning days of Food Forward we were so excited to harvest every fruit tree we were invited to.  Sometimes though, we’d set up an event only to have the volunteers arrive and find a tree with not enough edible fruit to harvest, and discouraged, return home.  Our volunteers are the heart of the organization, so in order to make the best use of our volunteers’ time, we needed to devise a way to make sure each harvest has the right number of volunteers and the right equipment. Sometimes homeowners overestimate or underestimate the amount of fruit they have and are not sure if their fruit is ripe.  So for the past 3 years, Food Forward has enlisted the help of trained Property Scouts to ensure every event is a fruitful experience for our volunteers, and delivers only the freshest fruits to families in need.

What does a property scout do?

Property Scouts are trained to know the ripening habits and seasons for each type of fruit that grows in Southern California.  They act as ambassadors and educators, visiting properties in their area on their time. When at the property, Property Scouts look for possible dangers like a nearby pool, dogs, powerlines in the branches, wasps, or dangerous equipment.  They take pictures of the trees and fruit to add to our database. They also look at the quality and quantity of the fruit and determine the amount of fruit on the tree that is harvestable and the type of equipment needed.  They even go so far as to taste the ripe ones to make sure we’re picking sweet and nutritious food for those in need.  Then they write up a small report for the worker bees back at the Food Forward office (aka Fruit Cave).   The entire process, from coordinating a time to visit to the reporting can take as little as 1 hour.

How to become a property scout.

If you have access to a vehicle and some time to check fruit near you in the daylight, please consider joining the Food Forward Property Scout team.  A Property Scout should have a little knowledge about fruit or gardening, or have a big interest in learning everything there is to know about them!  We are holding property scout trainings throughout the year, and seasonal fruit lessons to discuss the upcoming fruit types and characteristics.  If you don’t see an upcoming event on our website, email our Harvest Manager at brenna@foodforward.org to find out how to get started.

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