Josh Shupack started the nonprofit Neighborhood Harvest this fall to make sure that all the locally grown fruit he spies in yards across Ashland won't go to waste.

When Josh Shupack finds fruit trees in his neighbors' back yards, he sees an opportunity.

Shupack started the nonprofit Neighborhood Harvest this fall to make sure that all the locally grown fruit he spies in yards across Ashland won't go to waste. So far, his group has picked pears, apples, plums and almonds that otherwise would have rotted in the trees.

He modeled the group after the original Neighborhood Harvest in Berkeley, Calif., where he helped run the organization for a year before moving to Ashland this summer.

"I started volunteering with them and I really loved it," he said. "When I moved up here, I looked around for something similar and I couldn't find it, so I decided to do it myself."

The group follows the harvesting philosophy of Native Americans, where gatherers take only every fourth plant they find, leaving the first to go to seed, the second for the animals and the third for other gatherers, Shupack said.

Neighborhood Harvest splits its bounty four ways as well, leaving one-fourth of the fruit for the owners of the trees, donating one-fourth to local food banks, selling one-fourth to support the organization and distributing the final fourth among the volunteers who picked it.

"I think that it's really valuable to get people out doing something like this because if the product is there, and if we're not here, it's going to go to waste," said Mary Ann Perry, who volunteered to pick almonds and apples Tuesday afternoon. "That's not necessary if people are willing to pick it and eat it."

David Stimple, another volunteer on Tuesday, said he didn't know what a fresh-picked almond looked like until he climbed up into the tree.

"It's neat to have that relationship to pick your own food and eat it," he said. The free food is a nice bonus, he added.

The almond and apple trees belonged to Seth and Candice Barnard, who inherited the orchard when they moved into their house. They give away much of their fruit as Christmas presents, but plenty of it still ends up on the ground every year.

"There is only so much time that I have, and there are a bunch of apples that go rotten before I can get them canned," Candice Barnard said. "I thought it's a shame to let it go to waste, because it's a lot of apples."

And because the Rogue Valley is a prime spot for growing fruit, there is plenty to go around.

"It's really great there's a nonprofit that takes advantage of that to help out the people who really need it," she said.

The harvest on Tuesday netted 22 pounds of almonds, 110 pounds of apples and a handful of plums. Volunteers at a harvest on Sunday picked up 400 pounds of pears and apples in the Colestine Valley.

"Our goal is to not let any fruit go to waste, and by next winter, our hope is to harvest 10,000 pounds of fruit," Shupack said.

Shupack finds much of the fruit the group picks by cycling around Ashland and knocking on doors with fruit in the backyard. Others he hears about through word of mouth. They will pick anything from an entire orchard to a single tree as long as it is edible.

Later this fall, Neighborhood Harvest hopes to connect with the Gleaning Network and other groups, who pick leftover fruit from Harry and David's orchards.

So far, Neighborhood Harvest has donated the food through Food Angels, which distributes food to 16 different organizations and also awards volunteers with a small amount of food for volunteering on a regular basis. The fruit for sale is available through the Village Farmer, a cooperative farm on Siskiyou Boulevard.

The organization has about 35 volunteers on the e-mail list, Shupack said, and eventually he hopes the organization will grow so there are team leaders responsible for picking fruit in certain areas of town.

To donate or volunteer with the group, call Josh Shupack at 488-8777 or visit www.neighborhoodharvest.org.

Staff writer Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or jfrench@dailytidings.com.