Museum Invites Public Input on Cultivating an Equitable Harvest

By April 30, 2024Press Releases

LOS ALTOS, CA (April 30, 2024) The Los Altos Heritage Orchard, following extensive rehabilitation efforts, is poised to produce a crop of Blenheim apricots in June. Renowned for their sweetness and juicy flavor at peak ripeness, this heirloom variety’s harvest season lasts two to three weeks. In a proactive approach, Los Altos History Museum is actively seeking community input on fostering a more inclusive and equitable harvesting process.


Under the title of “Gathering the Fruits of Orchard Rehabilitation,” a program will be held on Thursday, May 16 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm, providing an opportunity for the public to share their thoughts and experiences about harvesting apricots.


Dr. Jane Packard, chairperson of the Museum’s Orchard Commons Committee, will deliver a short informative presentation about former harvesting practices in the Los Altos Heritage Orchard, with comparisons to other heritage orchards in Santa Clara Valley. Following this, attendees will be encouraged to brainstorm options for enhancing inclusivity and equity in the harvesting process.


In July, the Museum entered a three-year agreement with the City of Los Altos to rehabilitate and maintain the Los Altos Heritage Orchard. Originally planted by J. Gilbert Smith starting in 1901, this site at the Los Altos Civic Center has been a productive working orchard for 120 years. Traditionally, the orchardist held the “crop rights” to sell the fruit to a local produce stand, DeMartini Orchard, and to enthusiasts who met him in the orchard during the harvest. Visitors were asked to refrain from picking for safety reasons.


“Although ‘crop rights’ were a motivating factor for good care of the orchard in the past, times have changed,” said Dr. Packard. “Under the expert guidance of orchardist Terence Welch, we are now exploring ways to care for the orchard in a manner that visitors can learn best practices for sustainable gardening at home. Hands-on experiences bring families together in life-long learning.”


Dr. Packard explained, “We do not yet know what an inclusive harvest would look like in our community. We anticipate a small crop this year because approximately sixty percent of the trees are newly planted and will take years to reach peak productivity. This pause will give us time to explore and adjust options for community involvement. Ideally, we hope to engage youth in the process of collecting low-hanging fruit during times when the professional pickers are not on site.”


Also a member of GreenTown Los Altos, Dr. Packard will be mentoring two high school interns to help shape the harvesting process in June. Interested students are invited to apply for the internship titled “Farm to Table: Apricot Harvest” on the GreenTown Los Altos website. Interns will present the results of their experiences at the Museum’s Apricot STEM Fair on June 29th.


According to Dr. Packard, the forthcoming harvest serves not only as an opportunity to savor the tangy sweet flavor of ripe Blenheim apricots, but also a time to reflect on individual responsibilities to benefit the collective whole. “Our rural heritage keeps alive the stories of innovation, cooperation, and the hard work it takes to grow wholesome, nutritious food for our communities. Bring your ideas to the forum at your Museum to brainstorm responsible approaches to future apricot harvests.”


Admission to the program is $15 per person, with complimentary access for Museum members. Registration is required at

Los Altos History Museum began in 1977 with the opening of the historic 
J. Gilbert Smith House, built in 1905 on 14+ acres of apricot orchards planted by Mr. Smith. In 2001, Los Altos History Museum opened the modern building next door, which houses the Museum’s collections, permanent and changing exhibits, store and administrative offices. The Museum and its grounds are available for rent during evenings and weekends. Its collections are owned by the City of Los Altos and are managed by an independent nonprofit organization, whose staff and volunteers are responsible for all programs and operations.  

The Museum is open Thursday through Sunday, from noon-4pm. Admission is free. Tours of the J. Gilbert Smith House are available during open hours. The outdoor agricultural exhibit, gardens and picnic area are accessible beyond Museum hours. For more information, visit:, email, or phone 650.948.9427 x14.