Gleaning is a biblical term, basically the act of taking the excess from the fields, anything the farmer wasn’t going to sell or feed to the pigs. After we’ve gleaned the food, we donate it to pantries. Say a farmer finds an extra bed of beets that they are going to plow under, they call us. I arrange a group of volunteers and we harvest the beets, then typically donate to Food for Free, and they deliver to food pantries and shelters in the area.
On our first official gleaning trip [this season], we harvested 300 pounds of red Russian kale and 60 pounds of peas. Berries are popular early season, and greens, such as kale, spinach, mustard greens, lettuce. We do corn in August, root vegetables in fall and early winter.
Social networking, our website, and word of mouth really help [us find volunteer gleaners]. The group is pretty diverse: middle-aged folk, people in between jobs, people like me in their 20s, some teenagers. As long as they can make it out to the field and bend over for a couple of hours harvesting beans or whatever, they’re welcome to come with us. It’s not everyone’s idea of fun. People who sign up are pretty committed.
I studied abroad spring of 2011 in Cuzco, Peru, in the mountains, a big city. Everyone had a much closer connection to their food and biodiversity in general. In other cultures, people place this value on fresh food that I felt America is growing apart from.
As coordinator, I’m involved with directly getting food from farms to people who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Food shelters should have fresh produce all the time. It shouldn’t be canned foods. I’m happy to provide this food that otherwise would’ve been wasted, the farmer would’ve forgotten. — As told to Kathy Shiels Tully
TAKE NOTE Since 2004, Boston Area Gleaners (bostonareagleaners.org) has delivered more than 205,000 pounds of local produce — enough to make up 1,164,547 servings.—As told to Kathy Shiels Tully. Interview has been edited and condensed.