Get out and Glean!
Gleaning is the practice of gathering leftover crops from a farmer’s field after their first harvest. The term dates back to the Bible, which instructed farmers to leave the corners of their fields unharvested to let “widows and peasants” come through to pick their own crops. Gleaning might be one of the earliest forms of hunger relief!
This ancient practice has been coming back into style lately, as recent studies have shown that 40% of food produced in the US goes to waste. Not all of this waste happens at the farm, but consumers’ demand for perfect- looking produce does mean that a lot of farmers’ harvest cannot go to market. In which case, it’s tilled back into the ground as compost.
Produce is very expensive in the grocery store and when money gets tight, it’s usually the first thing cut from the shopping list. Philabundance works hard to provide people in need of food with access to nutritious fruits and veggies. Many food banks and other hunger relief organizations have started to assemble gleaning programs to put farmers’ excess into the hands of community members who otherwise couldn’t afford nutritious produce.
Philabundance piloted a gleaning program last year with Porch Farms in Salem County, NJ. We gleaned at their farm five times during the summer and harvested over 14,000 pounds of fresh produce! The produce gleaned included corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.
As the Agricultural Initiatives Americorps VISTA, I have been working tirelessly this year to further develop our grower and volunteer relationships, and we have a few more farms signed up for the 2013 season. We are hoping to glean every Monday through the summer and fall at local farms, weather permitting, as well as several Saturdays and Thursdays. We can really use all of the help we can get! If you are interested in helping please email or call me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (215) 339 0900. I look forward to seeing you in the fields!