scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Harvesting for the Boston Area Gleaners

Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe

Helen Palmer (above) holds kale she picked at Weir River Farm in Hingham — a tiny portion of the 157,875 pounds of fresh food gleaned this year from farms in Eastern Massachusetts by volunteers for Boston Area Gleaners. Working closely with local farmers, the nonprofit provides volunteer labor to harvest crops that would otherwise be plowed under, and distributes the food to local pantries and meal programs.

Palmer says she doesn’t want to spend her whole life sitting at a desk, and there’s no downside to being a volunteer gleaner, apart from a little aching here and there. “I’m doing something that’s actually fun, playing at being a farmer. It’s good to get out and work in the fields of these amazing farmers, and the food goes to people who really need it.”

A scientist for the Charles River Watershed Association, Elisabeth Cianciola, of Brighton, has been gleaning for about three years. She likes spending the time outside and being able to help the local community. There are over 1,000 fruit and vegetable farms in eastern Massachusetts, and farmers cannot afford to harvest what they cannot sell. Boston Area Gleaners volunteer their labor and pick the surplus crops that would otherwise be plowed under. The local produce is then delivered to pantries and meal programs for low-income people.Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe
First-time gleaner Paul Casey, 24, of Allston, works for Gentle Giant Moving Company, and heard about gleaning from friends at his climbing gym.Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance
Benjamin Jankowski, 17, (left), and Lance Reynolds, 18, both seniors at Mansfield High School work gleaning kale at the Weir River Farm. Benjamin has been gleaning many times and is trying to set up a gleaning program at his high school.Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe
"My mother wouldn't believe it if she saw me here," said Doris Brimingham, of Arlington, who grew up on a farm in Kansas, and has been volunteering with the Boston Area Gleaners almost since their start. She loves coming outdoors and meeting the other gleaners and working for a cause she cares about.Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance
Gleaner Sarah Chudnovsky, 24, finished at Boston University last year, studying international relations and African studies.Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance
Dylan Frazier is one of Boston Area Gleaner's coordinators.Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe