We received 92,843 pounds of oranges from Village Harvest this spring. They were sourced from Moitizo Orchards, a 14-acre farm in San Jose. That is about 2.5 truckloads full of fruit that went into our produce boxes for our clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2018, Bob Moitozo and his family stopped selling oranges commercially, and this past season, their entire 14-acre orchard was harvested and donated to Second Harvest.
“I thought it was a crime to let the oranges go on the ground,” Bob said. “So I got in contact with Village Harvest, and we’ve been sending produce to Second Harvest for about four years.”
Bob and his family have owned their farm for over 100 years, since his grandfather started a dairy on the property in 1915. They began planting pears in the mid-’50s and switched to growing oranges in the 90s.
It is one of the last surviving orchards in the Silicon Valley and today is surrounded by large apartment complexes and tech companies.
“I’m so glad we’ve been here long enough for my nieces and nephews and their kids to be able to come out here and experience all of this and play around like we did when we were kids,” Bob said. “My nephew and his wife really help me out. I’ve got one employee, but he wasn’t able to come out here this year due to health issues, and I needed help moving tractors.”
Bob’s nephew Andrew has been helping his uncle tend to the farm for the past ten years.
Andrew’s four-year-old daughter Calliope also had fun during the harvest. She said she liked picking oranges.
“There are fairies inside,” Calliope said. “Her name is Clover. I like eating oranges, but I don’t eat the fairies’ houses.” Her mother Amanda explained that they say the fairies live inside the orange peels.
This year, Village Harvest volunteers followed COVID-19 protocols and were able to maintain a safe distance (one volunteer to an orange tree) while they picked the sweet-smelling fruit. The group included Shruthi, who lives in a complex next to the orchard.
“When I saw people picking oranges from my apartment across the way, I came here and they said I needed to volunteer,” Shruthi said. “So I just volunteered and I’m happy to be here.”
Shruthi graduated from San Jose State University and remembers getting food from the school’s food pantry when she was a student. Second Harvest partners with college food pantries in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and provides a mix of produce and dry goods at no cost to any student in need.
“We used to get groceries every month and us five roommates would show up to Spartan Pantry (at San Jose State) and stand in line,” Shruthi said. “I come from India and I had student loans. At the time, one dollar was 73 Rupees for me. It was really nice to receive that food. It was really nutritious: fruits, rice, beans, dairy. We got this wholesome food which we probably wouldn’t have been able to afford because we were always converting dollar to Rupees and thinking, ‘oh I can’t buy these things.’”
Special thanks to Craig Diserens, the executive director of Village Harvest, for organizing this amazing donation. Village Harvest just celebrated its 20-year anniversary of connecting people in need to locally grown produce. It donates up to 250,000 pounds of produce a year to organizations in the Bay Area.
We do not currently have the workforce required to accept community food donations. The sorting and quality control process for community food donations is time intensive and bulk donations like the one from Village Harvest allow us to better utilize our volunteer and donated labor.