Frequently Asked Questions

Can't find the answers to your questions here? Contact our Harvest Coordinator!

How do I register a tree?

Trees are registered during step 3 of the account creation process. Existing Tree Stewards can register another tree from the account homepage or by clicking on Add a tree underneath your list of current trees.

Can I register more than one property?

During account creation, you'll only be able to add one property. At this time, the only way to register multiple properties is by contacting our Harvest Coordinator.

How do pick requests work?

Every year, Tree Stewards must submit a pick request for each tree. Pick requests can be made from the Account Homepage by finding a tree in the table, and clicking 'create pick request'. Shortly after the pick request is received, the tree will be moved to either a 'needs assessment' or 'ready to pick list'. You can check on the status of your trees at any time from the homepage. You will also be notified via email when the status of your tree is changed.

While we would love to pick every tree, we may not be able to get to them all. Submitting a pick request with good quality photos increases the chance that we'll be able to pick your tree quickly.

For more information about the harvest process, please visit our website.

How do assessments work?

Sometimes we need more information about a tree before we can decide if we're able to pick it. Volunteer Tree Assessors schedule a time to visit your property to gather information and take photos of your tree. You'll receive an automated email when an assessor schedules a visit. Assessments are usually booked a few days to a week in advance.

The date and time of a scheduled assessment can also be viewed on your account homepage.

How do I know when you are coming to pick my tree?

Tree Stewards receive an automated email when a Harvest Leader schedules a pick (usually a few days to a week or more in advance), and another reminder the day before the pick. During a pick, volunteers are harvesting multiple trees at different properties all on the same outing. You'll be given an approximate time frame of 3 hours during which your pick will take place. The volunteer team can come at any point during this time frame.

The date and time of a scheduled pick can be viewed on your account homepage.

Can I reschedule or cancel a pick?

If the scheduled pick time does not work for you, please reply to the automated email and let us know. We will communicate this to the volunteer team, and they will either cancel the pick or reschedule for another time.

If you'd like to cancel your pick request altogether, please email us and we'll remove your tree from the list for this season. A new pick request can be submitted at a later date.

What happens to my fruit after you pick it?

The Fruit Tree Project follows a Community Sharing Model to ensure that the highest quality fruit goes to those with the least access.

After a harvest, the requested amount (up to 25%) of fruit will be left with the Tree Steward (your fruit will be left in a box in the shade, usually near the door). An additional 25% will be shared amongst volunteers. The remaining portion is taken to the LifeCycles warehouse to be sorted and redistributed into the community. Here, another 25% is given to the Food Share Network to be distributed to over 65 community agencies. And the final 25% is process to make value-added products.

For more information on the our redistribution process, please visit our website.

How do I know when my fruit is ripe?

The best way to tell if your fruit is ripe is to taste it! Ripe fruit separates easily from the branch. If you're unable to reach the fruit, photos help us determine if it's ready to pick. Here are some general guidelines:

- Apples: Skin is a uniform colour (or has blush), flesh is not tinged green, fruit is crisp, juicy, sweet, and the seeds are dark brown.

- Transparent apples: Skin is light green (between dark green turning to yellow), flesh is not tinged green, fruit is tart and sweet, and the seeds are white.

- Pears: Fruit is firm (neither hard nor soft), skin is a uniform colour, flesh is crisp and juicy, and tastes sweet. Please note: We pick pears slightly under ripe, as they ripen from the core outwards).

- Plums: Skin is a uniform colour (or has blush), fruit is soft, juicy, tastes and smells sweet.

- Quince: Fruit is full size, skin is a uniform colour, and smells floral.

- Figs: Fruit is soft and saggy, tastes very sweet, may have juice dripping from the base, and fruit droops vertically off the branch. For more information, visit our figs guide.

Falling fruit does not necessarily indicate ripeness! Some fruits will push one another off the tree as they reach full size (ex: apples), and fruit also falls when the tree is stressed (due to heat, lack of water, etc).

Please note: We recommend requesting a pick a minimum of 2-3 weeks before your fruit is ripe, to give our volunteers the best chance of getting to your tree on time.

What are the volunteer roles?

Volunteers take on a variety of roles in the harvest process to help keep the Fruit Tree Project running smoothly.

Harvest Leaders: are the backbone of the whole operation. These volunteers schedule when and what to pick, drive the LifeCycles van, coordinate volunteers onsite, document the harvest, and help pick the fruit.

Fruit Pickers: are our casual volunteers. These volunteers can choose when and where they want to harvest by joining one of the picks scheduled by Harvest Leaders in the Gleaning Hub.

Tree Assessors: are trained to help us gather important information about trees in their neighbourhood to ensure a successful harvest. They're also often the first point of contact between Tree Stewards and the LifeCycles volunteer team!

Fruit Sorters: are the linchpin in our Community Sharing Model. These volunteers come together twice a week during harvest season to grade the harvest and redirect it into the community.

Can I take on more than one volunteer role?

Of course! All our volunteers can add or remove roles from their account settings (account homepage > profile & emails). Checking off the roles you're interested in ensures you'll receive the relevant communications throughout the season. Please keep in mind that Harvest Leader and Tree Assessor roles require additional training.

What's the benefit of volunteering with the Fruit Tree Project?

Free fruit! Need we say more? ;) But more than that, it's a unique way to engage with the local food system and join a community of like-minded people. LifeCycles volunteers are a wonderful group of people working to care for one another and the land we live on. Some reasons people volunteer with us are to: get fresh food to those who need it, spend time outdoors across the region, meet new people, learn more about the urban orchard, and the list goes on.

How much am I committing to as a volunteer?

Each role requires a different level of commitment, so you can pick with fits your schedule best. Fruit Pickers, Box Collectors, and Fruit Sorters can be more casual roles where you contribute as you're able. Tree Assessors and Harvest Leaders are core roles, and we ask that you commit to volunteering consistently throughout the season.

Can I be a volunteer and a Tree Steward?

Absolutely! We encourage everyone interested in having their fruit trees harvested to register with a Tree Steward account. The volunteer role can be added to your user from your account settings at a later date! Likewise, volunteers who later want to become Tree Stewards can do so from their account settings.

How do I sign up for orientation?

We run volunteer orientations at the beginning of the harvest season (usually June through August). You’ll hear about them in our “Welcome Back” emails in early summer. We currently offer orientations online, and you can sign up for these sessions under the Shifts tab in the Gleaning Hub. As of 2022, attending a General Orientation will be a prerequisite for participating in picks or taking on a core volunteer role (unless you’ve been to a minimum of 3 picks in the past 2 years).

How do I join a pick?

Harvest Leaders schedule picks by viewing the list of Ready to Pick trees in the Gleaning Hub, and booking an outing.

Fruit Pickers join picks by viewing the list of outings in the Gleaning Hub, and signing up for the picks that fit their schedule.

Why aren't there any picks to join?

If there aren’t volunteer spots available on picks, it’s because all of the current outings are full. Picking is a popular activity and spots tend to fill up very quickly - we recommend signing up for email notifications to find out when new spots become available!

Picks typically take place in July through October, with only a handful of other harvesting opportunities outside this time of year.

If you have not attended a General Orientation or picked 3 times in the past 2 years, the system will prevent you from signing up for picks.

What is a Neighbourhood Team, and how do I join one?

Neighbourhood Teams are groups of Fruit Pickers who are interested in picking regularly and in specific areas. For example, someone who lives in the Westshore and is committed to picking often. Neighbourhood Teams are intended to ensure that no matter where or when a Harvest Leader books a pick, they'll have Fruit Pickers who can help them. Neighbourhood Teams also get priority when signing up for some picks.

You can apply to join a Neighbourhood Team by filling out the Picker Preferences page when prompted at login, or from your Account Settings at any time.

What should I bring to a pick?

- Work and weather appropriate clothing (hat, rain coat, sunscreen, and closed-toe shoes for ladder safety)
- Water and snacks (outings last 2-3 hours)
- A bag or box to take fruit home in :)

Your safety and comfort is important to us. If you have any concerns on a pick, please talk to your Harvest Leader. Questions or concerns can also be brought to the Harvest Coordinator.

About the Gleaning Hub

The Gleaning Hub is our members portal used by LifeCycles staff, volunteers, and Tree Stewards to help make the harvest process easier. It is responsible for:

Storing information about trees
Self-scheduling of tree assessments and picking
Tracking harvest data

On the Gleaning Hub, Tree Stewards can edit information about their property and trees, make pick requests, and track their harvest stats. Because the Gleaning Hub tracks harvest stats and saves information about trees, it helps make it easier for returning Tree Stewards to estimate the ripeness date of their trees!

Once the Harvest Coordinator approves a pick request, our Harvest Leaders use the Gleaning Hub to self-schedule a date and time to pick the tree. Fruit Pickers can then select which outings they want to join.

LifeCycles staff members also use the Gleaning Hub to track harvest data, manage volunteers, and plan an effective harvest!

Gleaning History

Gleaning refers to the historical practice of gathering what remains in a field after it has been commercially harvested, or the farmer has deemed it no longer economically profitable to harvest. Forms of gleaning have been practiced in many cultures for over 2000 years, and was a common, everyday aspect of rural life. Historically, gleaning has been a privilege and even a protected right of 'poor neighbours and strangers'. While the enforcement of private property and more efficient farm technologies has set legal and practical limits on the practice of gleaning, the amount of waste within the agriculture food system has led to a return of gleaning organizations.

LifeCycles is proud to be part of this long tradition and thanks the farmers and tree stewards who welcome us to glean and share what can't be utilised.

Crate of fruits