No doubt many of you find youselves unexpectedly trapped in and around your house, your plans for internships, work and personal growth put on ice by the Covid pandemic. What to do? You could sit home and play videogames, chat online and read some books–the latter activity has promise, at least, for college applications as well as that personal, intellectual growth. Or you could also come up with some new activities to create great college application essays.
(If you are not clear on why activities are important, please read my classic post on how college applications are evaluated: The Secret of College Admissions.)
And here is an idea for an activity you can quickly organize and move on, as well as scale up: harvesting food that is going unpicked.
Harvesting Excess Fruit in Suburbs and Cities–for Community Service and Great College Essay Potential
If you live in a suburb that is more than a decade old, as well as in the lower-rise areas of most cities, you will find a source of food waste that is often overlooked: fruit that goes unpicked on trees in private yards. There are also many people with gardens producing more than they can consume.
To create a great exracurricular activity for college application essays and filling in your personal profile: simply find excess fruit (and vegetables, when possible) and connect that fruit with food banks and other organizations. Your equipment as simple as a pole harvester for fruit and possibly a good-quality ladder or two (this latter element, pun intended, does introduce a risk of falling. Please take note).
This is not an original idea on my part–there are dozens of groups, some highly organized, that already exist–just a simple search can show you this: gleaning on DuckDuckGo. And you can find a short list of well-known gleaning groups here: Harvesting/Gleaning Organization Directory.
But my pitch is this, even if you live near one of these groups: start your own.
Show Leadership and Initiative by Creating Your Own Organization
Creating an organization could be as simple as a single friend or a group of friends to pick this fruit, or it could involve you getting a group organized, creating a nonprofit with a website, and expanding your organization–particularly if you are, say, a rising sophomore–time is on your side. But even if you are a rising senior, imagine the value of being able to write your college application essay on a summer spent helping neighbors who can’t pick fruit and helping those who are hungy. Call that a win-win-win.
Your tools can be as simple as making or buying a few pole harvesters and (possibly) one or two good-quality ladders of no more than six-eight feet. Add some boxes and bags, and gloves and sturdy hats might also be helpful–you will find out why the first time you pick off a thorny lemon tree.
Spiky lemon trees aside, your only real risk from this operation, provided you keep a sensible distance while harvesting and stay out of people’s houses, is from heat/ a sunburn or a fall off a ladder. Make sure you train everybody on ladder safety as well as dealing with Covid safety.
Why you should to this: self interest. You need Covid-safe activities to crate college essays. And this will get you outdoors, will allow you to “hang” (literally) with your friends, again in a safe way.
Community Service is In
And more importantly, you will be giving to your community. As an aside, while I was growing up, I watched a more communal ethose in my hometown, state and the USA in general recede into a focus on self interest. I think that may be changing. And the nice thing is, in giving you to your community you are doing something that shows leadership, initiative and a community spirit. You can scale it up as much as you like, set up a website, form a 501 nonprofit. How far you take something like this is up to you.
And before you even get a few pieces of equipment, finding trees is as simple as looking around your area, then knocking on likely doors, taking three or four steps back and cheerfully explaining, through your mask, that you are launching a neighborhood harvest of excess fruit to send to food banks (et al). Network with your local food banks, and you could be harvesting and transporting within days.
You can help your pitch by kicking some fruit back to the tree owner.
Tips and Links for Setting up a Fruit Harvesting Extracurricular Activity
Here’s a few more tips on everyting from creating a cheap and safe pole harvester to organizing a 501c3 cheaply, without hiring a lawyer:
You will find a series of related videos on making picking tools and harvesting fruit as you scroll down from that Youtube link. Like this one:
And if you want to have a telescoping pole on which to mount your harvester, just repurpse a painting pole, e.g. these examples:
And if you have or plan to buy a ladder, be sure to study ladder safety–most orchards use a tripod ladder, for ease of setup, as shown in this link: