In our house strawberries and cherries are the preferred snack now that the “season” has really kicked in. Apparently the season is in full swing out in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, an area filled with farms and backyard fruit trees. Elise Bauman, the about-to-be first paid employee of our newest grantee, Salem Harvest, sent us these pictures this morning which show quite clearly that volunteers of all ages are welcome to help pick the fruit. Our young strawberry picker took part in one of three harvests held over the past two days. The result? More than 3,000 pounds of luscious strawberries! The boys pictured below were part of today’s cherry harvest which yielded more than 400 pounds of sweet fruit that would have otherwise been left to rot on the trees.
Salem Harvest was started by eight volunteers back in 2010. Their plan was simple — gather volunteers to harvest from local farms as well as backyards with the understanding that at least half of what was picked would be donated to local agencies such as the Marion-Polk Food Share. Apparently these founders were onto something, there are now more than 3,000 volunteers from across the socioeconomic spectrum who participate. Since their inception more than 500,000 pounds of fruit and veggies have been rescued and distributed. With Oregon having the unfortunate distinction of being the state with the highest rate of childhood hunger, Salem Harvest’s efforts are even more important.
Elise’s organizational skills, her passion and her personal experiences as a mother who sometimes worried about having sufficient food for her family makes her the perfect choice for this organization’s growth from all-volunteer to a full-time employee. We know from this morning’s phone conversation that her enthusiasm can’t be topped, which is why the Good People Fund’s matching grant to be used to underwrite this salary was just the right thing to do. Good luck, Elise!