Fruit Pick Volunteer Guide

Welcome and Thank You!

Thank you for signing up as a fruit pick volunteer. The following is a guide to help you enjoy your experience with us and get the most from your rescued fruit.

Quick Reference List


As a Fruit Pick Volunteer you are a representative of OFRE and are to promote our organization to the best of your abilities and adhere to the OFRE Code of Conduct. You may be asked questions about OFRE from friends, colleagues, fellow pickers, and homeowners. You will need to be able to communicate some basic information about the organization.

As a pick volunteer, you should know the brief history of OFRE and our mission, vision and values, in order to answer questions from home owners, friends, and passers-by.

Back to top


OFRE was formed in 2009 when a small group of people interested in seeing less fruit go to waste in the city. In 2011, the group became a non-profit organization. The board constructed the following to help direct the future of the group:


The Edmonton capital region is a place where all of the locally grown fruit is used productively to support the health and well-being of the community.


OFRE will mobilize volunteers to harvest, process, and preserve local fruit. OFRE will get the fruit in the hands, mouths, and minds of people in the Edmonton capital region by fostering community involvement and knowledge sharing.

Back to top



  • Distributing of excess fruit to maximize use and minimize waste.


  • Connecting people together to build a strong diverse community.


  • Allowing anyone, no matter of their income, access to fresh local fruit.


  • Think local, act local, for sustainable independent solutions.


  • Empowering people through teaching, learning, and understanding the benefits of locally grown food

Back to top


Sign up for as many or as few picks as you want. Usually, each pick takes about two hours.

We are always looking for additional help running the group. More volunteering opportunities are listed on our web page. These vary from event planning to urban orchard maintenance. Please check out these positions if you have time to give!

Not only do we coordinate fruit rescue, but OFRE also hosts and participates in food-awareness community events. Watch for email and webpage notices of these events.

Back to top


1. Read the “Notice of Picks” emails.

Fruit growers will submit fruit rescue requests to our system administrator.  The administrator sends out notices approximately weekly to the volunteers as “Notice of Picks”.

Select a pick that works for you. To select a pick, you click on the link with the time (e.g. 7:30pm) of the pick, and it will take you to another page to sign up for that pick. You click on the icon to register for the pick. Soon after this, you’ll get a “Sign-Up Confirmation” email, outlining the details of the pick you have signed up for (different from “Pick Confirmation” notice).

2. Wait for the “Pick Confirmation” email.

Once we’ve confirmed that the pick has sufficient volunteers and will take place as expected, you’ll receive a “Pick Confirmation” notice, including the contact information for your fellow pickers and the fruit owner. If the pick has been cancelled for any reason, you will receive an email saying so.

3. Get in touch with your fellow pickers, and fruit grower, if necessary.

Coordinate necessary picking equipment, shared transportation.  If there is a storm, or you are unable to make it, reschedule with the volunteers AND fruit owner via email.

Back to top


**NOTE: If it seems dangerous or unsafe, don’t do it. Safe picking is good picking.

What you Need:

  • Access to a vehicle or a device to haul up to 200 lbs of apples. If you do not have a car, one of the other volunteers on the pick will need to have a car to transport the fruit to be donated.
  • Cargo bikes are a great way to reduce your carbon foot print.
  • Carpooling is encouraged.
  • Boxes or containers for storage of apples, as well as sufficient additional containers for the charity’s share. The Food Bank, as well as several grocery stores, and liquor stores have boxes that work great for picking.
  • Garbage bags for windfall apples.
  • A ladder is useful, but not necessary as many houses have ladders that can be used.
  • A rake can be useful for removing windfall fruit

What to do at the house:

1) Introduce yourself.

Upon arrival, introduce yourself to the other volunteers. Select a pick leader to be the main contact person with the home owner.

The leader can confirm with the owner if they want their share of the fruit, and if they do, ask them for containers or boxes to put their share in.

2) Pick up windfall fruit.

Have everyone pick up the apples on the ground before starting the pick. This is necessary for safety and helps distinguish new-fallen apples from old. These apples should not be composted. They may have apple maggot or other disease, and should be put out for regular waste pick up.

3) Pick fruit.

Pick a few apples from various locations on the tree and cut them open to determine if the fruit has a disease and cannot be used. If the fruit is not suitable for donating (refer to fruit health guide), it is up to the pick volunteers to determine if they want to pick the fruit for their own uses.

Inform the owner if their fruit is unhealthy and that diseases occur from time to time. Next year the apples may be suitable for picking. Direct them to the OFRE web site for helpful resources on tree maintenance and care.

If the apples are not yet ripe (seeds not dark), the pick should be postponed until they are ripe. (Is the fruit ready?)

Tidy the lawn of fallen fruit, leaves and twigs resulting from fruit harvesting.

4) Divide the fruit.

The volunteers divide the fruit roughly into quarters for distribution. It is decided at the pick among the volunteers which charity will get the fruit, and who will responsible to deliver it. Delivery needs to occur within 24hrs of picks to ensure fresh fruit is donated.  See further details: How fruit is divided, and charity guide.

5) Thank the owner.

Say thank you and let the homeowner know you are leaving. Let the homeowners know that if they wish to donate to our organization they can do so through our website.

Back to top

What to do with diseased apples:

  • OFRE cannot distribute, or process fruit with pest problems. The fruit must be thrown out.
  • Direct the home owner to the OFRE website on how to properly maintain fruit trees, and for apple health information. Tell them to NOT compost maggoty apples.
  • The volunteers can decide if they want to personally use the fruit that is not suitable for donation.

Back to top

What to do with your fruit:

  • Make jams, jellies, purees, pies, apple sauce, apple  butter, cider, frozen fruit for winter smoothies, fruit  leather, dehydrated fruit, soft or hard cider, apple crisp, etc.
  • Hold preserve swaps and get a variety.
  • Make Christmas gifts.

Back to top


You are responsible for:

  • Representing OFRE in a positive way, to the best of your abilities.
  • Picking fruit in a safe, responsible manner
  • Determining the quality of the fruit. If you are unsure, please refer to the fruit health guide for diseases and other issues. We can only donate quality fruit to the charities.
  • Dropping off the fruit to OFRE’s main processing site OR dropping the fruit off at a charitable organization. It is suggested that you contact the charity prior to dropping off the fruit.

NOTE: Volunteers are NOT obligated to pick all the fruit.

Pick what you can, safely, in the time allotted.

Back to top


  1. Start by removing any fallen apples to keep them separate from those you are going to pick. Apples that have been on the ground for a while are at risk of contamination and should be thrown away (sent to City landfill, not composted, to prevent the spread of apple pests, especially apple maggot).
  2. Start on the lower branches of the tree to avoid bruising from ladders or fruit falling from upper branches.
  3. While picking, place your hand underneath the apple, roll it toward the branch and twist gently. The stem should break free from the spur. Avoid jerking or pulling the apple as this may remove the fruit spurs that are important for next year’s crop. If the fruit is still difficult to remove, it is likely not ripe.
  4. Place your picked apples in a bag or basket gently to avoid bruising. Empty your container frequently to avoid spilling or bumping apples. Damaged fruit should be placed in a separate container and used right away, as they’ll cause other apples to spoil.

Only wash your apples when you are ready to eat them, unwashed apples keep longer than washed apples. Store your apples in a cool dark place until ready to be used.

Back to top


  1. Rhubarb-Twist stalks off at the base, leaving the plant intact. Harvest stalks that are over 1” in diameter. Leave at least ¼ of the plant intact to ensure further production.
  2. Raspberries-Only use small containers. Too many berries will squish down ones on the bottom. Pull off only berries that come off easily, leaving behind the “spurs”.
  3. Pears-Best harvested while still unripe and green. Leave them to ripen in boxes. This can take up to a month or more. They can be harvested when ripe, but will not store as well, and will have more “grit” in texture.

Back to top


  • ¼ for the fruit owner (if they want it).
  • ¼ donated  to a local charity organization of your choice.
  • ¼ Divide  amongst the volunteers.
  • ¼ goes to OFRE.

This ¼ share is flexible. Many times the home owner doesn’t want their share. Sometimes volunteers only want a handful, while others may want their full share. It is at the discretion of the volunteers to decide the exact quantities and their distribution. If the homeowner does not want their share, that 1/4 can be donated to charity, or divided among the pickers.

To reduce the amount of driving volunteers have to do, volunteers will either deliver to an OFRE site, or to a local food charity, but not both! OFRE will send out an e-mail if there’s a special event, asking for the fruit to be delivered to a specific location. If no e-mail has been sent during the week you are picking, both portions (¼ for OFRE, ¼ for charity) will go to the food charity you select.

Back to top


Check out our Charity Guide page  and/or download our Charity Guide to find out where to donate your fruit.

Back to top


After the pick, you will receive an email asking you to fill out a post-harvest form.

Please take the time to record:

  • How much of which types of fruit are rescued. see fruit weight estimation.
  • Where the charity portion was donated.
  • Any useful notes about the grower’s property, fruit.
  • Whatever other information you think may be helpful for our future picks.

Thank you for making OPERATION FRUIT RESCUE EDMONTON possible!

Back to top

Still have more questions? Read the FAQ. If still unclear, send us an email at: