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Posts Tagged ‘gleaning’

Photo: Boston Area Gleaners

In September, I posted pictures at a community garden where a sign said not to pick anything that wasn’t yours. I expressed the hope that when the gardeners were completely finished with their harvest, gleaners for food pantries would be allowed in. I don’t know if they were, but I did learn that my church contacted Boston Area Gleaners to help collect fresh surplus produce at local farms.

Kathy Shiels Tully provides background on Boston Area Gleaners at the Christian Science Monitor.

“As a volunteer for the past four years with Boston Area Gleaners (BAG), which collects excess fresh produce at local farms for those in need, I’ve watched the nonprofit grow into something of a gleaning giant. …

“[Laurie ‘Duck’] Caldwell, the executive director of BAG, is pretty much responsible for the group’s, shall we say, mushrooming growth. Though she deflects any praise, her story shows how one person can have a powerful effect on an organization. Caldwell, in fact, was BAG’s first paid employee.

“She believes deeply in BAG’s mission of ‘rescuing’ surplus produce (as the group puts it). Last year, BAG helped deliver 1.45 million four-ounce servings to those who might not otherwise enjoy the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables. …

“I learn that she is a carpenter with more than 20 years of experience. Her entry into nonprofits came while living in Vermont, through a program she helped pioneer at Vermont Works for Women. There, she taught incarcerated women skilled trades like carpentry and plumbing, and they built a modular home that was then sold as affordable housing. The pilot program gained national attention.”

Having lost her job after the 2008 financial crisis, “she searched for volunteering opportunities to buoy her spirits while job hunting and discovered BAG. …

“Gleaning gave Caldwell an emotional boost and challenged her to develop new skills. She and [founder Oakes] Plimpton became the organization’s first ‘gleaning coordinators’ – arranging farm visits, picking pantries to deliver to, and rounding up volunteers. …

“On Jan. 2, 2010, with salary money secured, that she signed on as BAG’s first employee.

“Caldwell dug into her new work immediately. She made the gleaning process easier for the farmers, proactively calling them instead of waiting for the farmers to speak up. She grew the solid list of 30 volunteers by recruiting like-minded people at farm, alternative energy, and ecology events. And, knowing she couldn’t do it alone, she almost doubled the size of the board of directors. …

“Strawberries, zucchini, corn, beans, carrots, tomatoes, kale, radishes, turnips, beets, squash, apples – everything but bananas fills empty, cardboard banana boxes, which are driven into Boston to a distribution partner such as the Greater Boston Food Bank or Food for Free in Cambridge, Mass.

“ ‘BAG is the Cadillac of food distribution to food pantries,’ says farmer Carl Hills. … Last year, he let BAG glean more than 71,000 pounds of produce on the 200-acre family farm. The crops gleaned are high-quality, the kind sought out by top chefs at high-end restaurants. ..

“Sasha Purpura, executive director of Food for Free … says, [it’s] “beautiful food” – something that for many people is out of reach.”

Read more and learn how to take action at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Art: Jean-François Millet (1814-1875)
“The Gleaners, “1857

When farmers are done harvesting their crops, or when homeowners grow fruit trees for decoration but don’t eat the fruit, an opportunity arises for gleaners. Some gleaners may scavenge for food for their own tables, but nowadays it’s become more of an activity to feed people who need extra help. I blogged about the concept in 2011, here, and 2014, here.

A recent article by Henry Schwan in WickedLocal provides an update.

He writes, “Ruth Lyddy bent over and used a sharp farm tool to take a whack out of a thick stalk of kale at Barrett’s Mill Farm in Concord. Lyddy had the look of a full-time farmer, but she’s a volunteer gleaner, which is someone rescuing crops before they are plowed over and destroyed.

“She joined other volunteers Nov. 17 at Barrett’s Mill Farm in Concord, and their leader was Dylan Frazier, who works for Boston Area Gleaners, Inc. (BAG). …

“The nonprofit formed in 2004, and is in the midst of its ’10 Tons in 10 Days’ campaign. As the name says, the goal is to gather 10 tons of food in 10 days, which is distributed to local food pantries.

“Frazier said many farms only harvest what they can sell, so BAG swoops in, takes the excess and hands it over to Food For Free in Cambridge, which distributes it to local food banks and pantries. …

“The volunteers also harvested purple-top turnips, red beets, leaks, daikon radish and Savoy cabbage, and all of it was piled into a truck, paid for with a $25,000 grant from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. …

“Volunteer John Pilch summed up why people give their time to BAG as he carried a box full of kale that he just cut. ‘It’s very grounding for me. I love to give back, because I’ve been so blessed in my life,’ Pilch said.”

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A couple years ago I asked someone who organizes gleaners in Vermont to write an article for the place that I work. Gleaning was new to me then, but now I read about it often.

The idea is that volunteers are invited into farms after a harvest to pick the perfectly good remnants that would otherwise be plowed under. The excess produce is then handed over to food banks at peak of freshness.

Kathy Shiels Tully wrote for the Globe today about one gleaning effort.

“Founded in 2004 by Arlington resident Oakes Plimpton, Boston Area Gleaners organizes volunteers, sometimes on only one to two days’ notice.

“Timeliness is important, said Emma Keough, market and food access manager at Brookwood Community Farm.

“ ‘It’s really critical people show up … We’re growing really intensively, so there’s only a small window to pick excess crops in order to give us time to turn over the land and plant a new crop.’ …

“Todd Kaplan of Somerville signed on four years ago after hearing about Boston Area Gleaners ‘through the grapevine.’

“Averaging a dozen gleaning sessions a year, Kaplan, a legal aid attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services, has gleaned mostly on farms west of Boston — Dick’s Market Garden in Lunenburg, where he’s picked kale, tomatoes, and green peppers; Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, which has offered the group first pick of apples; and the Food Project Farm in Lincoln.

“The gleaning nonprofit ‘moves an inordinate amount of food that would otherwise go to waste into the hands of people who really need it,’ Kaplan said.

“Lynn Langton, a North Andover resident, says her immediate reaction to learning about gleaning in a newspaper article three years ago was ‘I want to do that!’ … It’s such a high-quality, fresh product. It’s unbelievable.’ ”

More here.

Photo: John Blanding/Globe Staff
The Boston Area Gleaners program organizes volunteers. to pick excess crops from farms and donate them to food banks for distribution. Matt Crawford is the group’s coordinator.

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How great an idea is this? Somerville’s League of Urban Canners gleans neglected fruits from city lots and neighbors’ trees and turns them into jellies, jams, and preserves.

Writes Kathleen Weldon in the Boston Globe, “The group is the brainchild of Sam Katz-Christy of Somerville, who was struck by inspiration last fall after receiving 10 pounds of plums from a neighbor who happened to have an unusually productive backyard tree. Armed with little more than a cookbook and a bit of courage, he and his family preserved their windfall in glistening Mason jars. The committed locavore, who commutes by bike to his job in Cambridge’s Central Square, began to notice just how much unused fruit was hiding in plain sight among the squares and one-way streets he traveled. His daily rides became a treasure hunt.

“After recruiting a posse of workers from his network of food-loving friends, he began knocking on doors, offering an unusual deal to the owners of neglected one-tree orchards: the League would pick their crop, can the harvest, and give residents back 10 percent of the results. The volunteers keep the rest.

“The initiative has proven remarkably successful. More than 220 sites are currently listed in the League’s database, representing more than 3,500 pounds of collected fruit. …

“Though at first the League expected to reap mostly apples and grapes, soon it became clear that Somerville, Cambridge, and Jamaica Plain were rich with ripe possibilities from mulberries to pears, raspberries to quince. A single tree in Harvard Square yielded 245 pounds of apricots, which turned into countless jars of jam.” Read more.

Suzanne loved the mulberries growing in our neighborhood when she was about five. I wonder how we might get our hands on mulberry preserves.

Mulberry season is long past, but there’s still plenty of produce out there, as evidenced by the hardy farmstands at the farmers market today.

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Here’s an interesting thought for harvest time.

In the NY Times, T. Lynne Pixley writes about Kelly Callahan and other Atlanta residents who forage for food among the many neglected, foreclosed properties in their neighborhoods.

Walking her dog in her neighborhood, Callahan saw “plenty of empty, bank-owned properties for sale.”

She also noticed that the “forlorn yards were peppered with overgrown gardens and big fruit trees, all bulging with the kind of bounty that comes from the high heat and afternoon thunderstorms that have defined Atlanta’s summer. So she began picking. First, there was a load of figs, which she intends to make into jam for a cafe that feeds homeless people. Then, for herself, she got five pounds of tomatoes, two kinds of squash and — the real prize — a Sugar Baby watermelon.” Others have joined in. Read more here.

I was interested to learn about “foraging” in Atlanta because I had recently read about a related activity in Vermont, called “gleaning.” Gleaning is a bit more out in the open. Farmers who are finished harvesting their crops give permission to gleaners, usually volunteers, to pick over what’s left and take it to families in need and to food pantries. One group engaged in this effort is the Addison County Gleaning Program. Read about it here.

It turns out that there is a lot of food that would otherwise go to waste. So it seems good that the food benefits someone.

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