by Julie Schubert and Elena Gustavson
Historically, gleaning has been tied to both the Christian and Islam faiths and an accepted practice of European rural life throughout the Middle Ages. When farming, there is always waste and the act of gleaning collects that waste to feed the hungry, the poor and the needy.
Here in Vermont, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL)'s Glean Team, is part of a larger gleaning collective that serves the entire state of Vermont. We rely heavily on volunteers to glean our local farm fields throughout the county and the captured surplus goes directly to area organizations that support those in need. The work happens whenever the fields are ready and our volunteers really love the opportunity to be outside, directly support their communities and even to meet other like-minded folks.
Last year 36,500 pounds of produce was gleaned from local farms and distributed to charitable recipient sites throughout Rutland County. That is 109,500 servings of food! To continue this work in 2016 we need you.
There are multiple ways to get involved with Glean Team. You can participate in field gleans and visit beautiful farms all over Rutland County. In 2015, Glean Team partnered with 29 farms. During on-farm gleanings, volunteers harvest excess or unmarketable produce from the fields. Our goal serves two purposes – it helps farmers distribute their produce to many who wouldn't otherwise be able to access the food and it cleans up the fields of produce that would otherwise be wasted and composted. Because of the variability of the season and our famously changing Vermont weather, we could be gleaning anything from spinach to cucumbers or even tomatoes...the list of veggies goes on and on!
Another opportunity to glean is to assist with our “market gleans” after the Rutland Farmers Market on Saturdays or to help deliver produce to recipient sites. For market gleans, volunteers check in with the farmers for produce to donate, which is then collected, boxed and weighed. In-field gleans and market pickups are a great way to interact with your local farmers and learn more about where your food comes from. With deliveries, volunteers help Glean Team by delivering the produce to recipient sites around the county. In 2015, we delivered to 27 individual sites!
Bring along friends or family to a glean. Many hands make light work (and a happy gleaning coordinator)! Gleaning creates a space to engage with other community members and maybe talk about your experiences with local food or just share some yummy veggie recipes. You never know who you will meet in the field or at the farmers market!
I’ll leave you with a testimonial from a dedicated Glean Team volunteer “I love working with the Glean Team! The generosity of the farmers is so inspiring. It is a great feeling knowing that food is not going to waste and is instead going to feed people. Bringing healthy, locally grown food to individuals who might not otherwise be able to have them is also rewarding.”
So, help everyone eat local – glean! Register to glean on vermontgleaningcollective.org. You will receive email announcements as gleans are scheduled and can RSVP to the gleaning event. I’ll see you in the fields!
Julie Schubert is an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving at Rutland Area Farm and Food Link as the Glean Team Coordinator. With a degree in Plant Science from Penn State University, she is passionate about sustainable agriculture and connecting those who are food insecure to local, wholesome produce - she is very happy to have found the Glean Team! Contact her at 802-558-5789 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published in the Rutland Herald on June 21st, 2016.