Throughout the growing seasons, especially this time of year, our farms have a surplus of fruits and vegetables. Instead of letting them simply rot or go into compost, Island Grown Gleaning comes to the rescue.
Each week on Mondays and Tuesdays, Jaime O’Gorman and a group of volunteers, make their way to Island farms to harvest plants.
This time of year, Mondays are spent at Whippoorwill Farm and Tuesdays are usually Morning Glory Farm, though there are other farms that participate in the gleaning program.
During the rest of the week, volunteers are distributing the harvest to schools, the elderly, churches, Island Food Pantry and other places.
There are a number of places that use and need the plants that Island Grown Gleaning pick. It’s a vital resource for many – who otherwise may not have access to such healthy, fresh food.
When I went this past Tuesday, we met at Morning Glory Farm to harvest curly kale. The sun was shining and it was one of those perfect Fall days.
The farm was bursting with beautiful, big kale plants. It’s so late in the season, that Morning Glory won’t be able to sell the kale, and that’s where the gleaners come in.
Morning Glory Farm owner, Simon Athearn, stopped to say hi to us and to thank us for helping harvest the kale. He would much rather see it go to Islanders that need and will enjoy it, than have it die in the frost or simply go to waste.
Armed with rubber bands (to make bunches) and bags to put them in, we set about collecting the kale. I grow kale at home, so this harvest was easy for me. I know not to pick from the crown and to look for aphids and caterpillars.
Morning Glory’s kale was so big and that beautiful lush green, that you feel healthier just by looking at it.
Because it was a sunny day, everyone was in such a good mood and conversation flowed. When I gleaned a couple of years ago, I had met Uma Datta, and she was there again. Many of the volunteers are so committed and come week after week.
She’s been helping glean for four years now, and she loves it even more now. She’d rather glean than go to the beach. Now that’s devotion!
In addition to gleaning, she helps deliver the gleaned fruits or veggies, and she says the happiness it brings people is so moving. People look forward to the fresh food, and the friendly volunteers.
The amount of appreciation is enough to make you want to do even more. It allows you to do something and give back to the community.
Even though I don’t glean often, I understood some of what Uma was saying. It was almost therapeutic being in the fields, harvesting beautiful kale for people who live in the community.
It felt good. A little nourishment for the soul. And, a perk is that you get to take a small bunch of what’s being harvested home as a volunteer. I thought that was a nice little thank you.
Jamie is wonderful to work with. For her, gleaning is such an important part of the cycle of food production on Martha’s Vineyard. There’s all this bounty from the farms, and she and the volunteers can share it with so many Islanders.
The last five years have been amazing. When she first started, no one knew what gleaning was. Now people not only know, but also more want to help.
There are a lot more volunteers, though she can always use more, and even the schools are involved in helping glean which is quite rewarding.
She says that the kids that come help glean are really into it. They work hard and produce a good harvest, and they ask a lot of questions.
For me as a parent, I am glad to hear that. I want my children to know where their food comes from and appreciate the time and beauty of as many things from the Island as possible.
It might be the middle of November, but there’s still plenty of gleaning to do. Next week it will be collard greens and there will still be potatoes, carrots and more to harvest over the next couple of weeks.
It might be getting more chilly but the fresh air is invigorating, and it feels good to be on a farm, helping others.
With the Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner, there are a lot of volunteer opportunities in addition to gleaning and helping distribute the food. If you’d like to volunteer, you can contact Jamie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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