Most people agree food shouldn’t go to waste, but often a garden produces too much food for one family and every year many backyard fruit trees go unpicked.
One area organization is working to ensure that this fresh, locally grown produce lands in the hands of people who need it most — the area’s hungry.
It started with lettuce.
In 2006, Moscow mom Amy Grey gave her boys a packet of lettuce seeds. They planted it everywhere and so much grew that there was no way they could eat it all. She started a movement to collect extra produce from homeowners and farmers market vendors and take it to area food banks.
Today Backyard Harvest is a staffed nonprofit group. It uses volunteers to pick and collect produce and distribute it to area pantries, said Misty Amarena, executive director. It gathers leftover produce from vendors at the Moscow and Pullman farmers markets and coordinates electronic benefit transfer food stamp programs at the markets that allow users to get an additional $2 worth of fresh food for every $5 they spend. It works with the YMCA of the Palouse and the Adventure Club in Moscow to get fresh fruit to kids.
When it comes to actual backyards that can provide food, they have upward of 300 fruit trees registered from 50 properties in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley and more than 100 on the Palouse, Amarena said. Some properties have more than 30 trees.
“Right now we have way more fruit trees registered than we can pick,” she said.
In the coming weeks, Backyard Harvest will hold a series of dinners in Pullman, Moscow and Lewiston to raise money for its efforts. The five-course gourmet meals are prepared by local chefs and feature seasonal food from area farmers and wine specifically paired for each course. They start Sunday at Merry Cellars in Pullman with food catered by Banyans on the Ridge. An Oct. 2 dinner at Bloom Cafe and Arthouse in Moscow will feature food by chef Nikki Woodland. The Oct. 16 dinner at Mystic Cafe in Lewiston will feature food by Sara Wilson paired with wine from Clearwater Canyon Cellars.
The dinners cost $100, and each event is limited to 40 people, so tickets must be purchased in advance. Funds raised will go toward staffing costs. While they write grants for program costs, Backyard Harvest pays people to coordinate volunteers to do the picking.
“It gets overwhelming pretty quickly,” Amarena said.
People who would like to volunteer to pick and collect produce can find out more online at www.backyardharvest.org.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Backyard Harvest fundraising dinners
WHEN: 5:30 to 9 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 24 at Merry Cellars, 1300 Henley Court, Pullman
Oct. 2 at Bloom Cafe and Arthouse, 403 S. Main St., Moscow
Oct. 16 at Mystic Cafe, 1303 Main St., Lewiston
Cost: Tickets are $100 and must be purchased in advance at Cafe Artista in Moscow or online at www.backyardharvest.org/harvestdinners