We have some rather large heritage fruittrees on our farm and due to health concerns we won't be able to pick them this year. We are thinking of sharing the harvest with one of those groups that has volunteers pick the trees. They take some for themselves, some for charity, and the rest of the harvest we get to keep. I like the idea of some going to charity.
Has anyone ever done this before?
My biggest concern is for the safety of the pickers. What sort of recruitment screening do they go through? Are they tested for common sense? Our ladders and equipment are safe - provided the person using them doesn't do stupid things while using them.
The other concern is the health of the tree. We are thinking of starting with a couple of trees we don't care much if they get broken. But even still, I hate to branches broken unnecessarily.
The third concern is diseases. If they've been up a tree with one contagious problem in the morning, then come and pick at our place in the afternoon... Then we may be stuck with a diseased tree. Or WORSE - they might touch our plums that have black knot and risk spreading it to other farms.
So those are my concerns. I don't know if I'm over-thinking things and this isn't really something to worry about. Maybe I've been hanging around the wrong people lately - but it seems more and more, people have great intentions and volunteer for things like this, but have no idea how to do things safely. I've had too many people who know better than me how to interact with equipment and animals on the farm, then they either break something, hurt themselves, or worse, do stupid thing like put their child in with the angry goat we were boarding, thus causing injury to their child and consequently, the poor goat who was simply defending herself from the noise-monster, now get's a one way ticket to freezer land. I may not be giving people enough credit, but there have been so many bad experiences.
Then there's the issue of the fruit. Either we have help picking the fruit, or it goes to waste. The latter is unacceptable and this year we can't afford a professional (aka, insured against their own stupidity) to pick the fruit for us.
What are your thoughts on this? Anyone have first hand experience?
I've had volunteer harvesters at my old house - but only for vegetables, so I don't have any experience with other people picking from trees.
My experience with the vegetable pickers was very positive. I would make an appointment with the group, they gave my email address to the volunteer team "leader" - who sometimes contacted me to clarify where they would be working in the yard/ what time they would be there. The teams worked in threes as an organizational rule - and mostly were very prompt, and all were very polite. They usually did a good job and worked fast. They tended to be careful as well, but I didn't have anything particularly valuable/unusual in my yard, so it wasn't a big concern for me.
I'd suggest calling the group organizers and you can probably get a good sense from them about their comfort with your situation. It might well be that they can arrange to send you more experienced volunteers.
This is just me...but there is absolutely no way I'm going to allow a bunch of strangers on ladders picking fruit on my place. If there's a group who carries their own insurance (and can prove it to me) and who specializes in picking tree fruit..then I may consider it. I'm all for sharing the harvest, but I'm also fully aware that there are a great many people in the world who are "accident prone" and have personal injury attorneys on speed dial.