Island Grown Gleaning, a Helping Hand in Making Thanksgiving Dinners on Martha’s Vineyard

I had been curious as to what Island Grown Gleaning was.  I knew it was a program that was part of the Island Grown Initiative, and that they collected produce from farms.  So when I heard that there was going to be a gleaning for the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to learn a little more.

Harvesting Produce in November?

Jaime O'Gorman Island Grown Initiative Island Gleaning LeaderReaching out to Jaime O’Gorman, who helps organize the events, she was happy to have me come and learn, and see first hand what they do.  I learned that Island Grown Gleaning goes to farms or even peoples’ gardens for produce that was surplus or was no longer being harvested for commercial use.  For this particular gleaning, we’d be heading to Morning Glory Farm.

November Gleaning At Morning Glory FarmBeing so late in the season, I thought that all the crops had been harvested and that the land was tilled and quietly waiting to be planted in the Spring.  Boy was I wrong.  When I got to Morning Glory Farm, Jaime was there with about 10 volunteers.  There was a huge amount of produce available for the volunteers on this chilly morning.

To the Tables of Islanders

Volunteers Harvesting For Thanksgiving Island Grown Gleaning Martha's VineyardThis particular glean was significant to a number of the volunteers.  The produce that was picked would be going to the Family Holiday Meals Program through Serving Hands Food Distribution at the First Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven, Island Food Pantry and the Councils on Aging, where it would be used for Thanksgiving meals for Island residents.

Knowing that so many Islanders are in need and would benefit so much from this harvest gave many volunteers even more joy and satisfaction in their work.

What was there to harvest?  Well, there were tons of pumpkins, perfect for roasting for side dishes and of course pumpkin pies.  There were countless fresh herbs which were being turned into fragrant bouquets that would soon be seasoning turkeys.

There were Asian greens, including Bok Choy and Kohlrabi and more.  I had no idea what Kohlrabi was.  Never heard of it, never seen it before, and here was this bulbous looking green turnip/cabbage thing.

One of the volunteers, Elizabeth, insisted I try it.  She took out her paring knife Kolrabhi Fresh From The Field - New to me!and cut a couple pieces for us to eat.  She said it was delicious – tasted like broccoli.  Why not try it?

Last week I ate headcheese for a blog, why not this?  She was right!  It did taste like broccoli but a little sweeter.  I loved it.  How did I not know about this vegetable before?  Sometimes being a bit of a city girl, I am missing out on a lot of delicious, healthy things.

Loading Up The Harvest Island Grown Gleaning Morning Glory FarmBut new vegetables aside, it felt good knowing that all this freshly harvested food was going to be used for Islanders’ Thanksgiving meals.  I felt grateful for everyone’s volunteer efforts, for living in a small community where so many care, and for knowing people can make a difference.  So much to be thankful for during the holiday season.

So Much More Than Produce

After seeing all the great produce they were harvesting, I got to talking to another volunteer, Uma.  She has been helping glean for a couple of years now.  She loves to do it.

She loves that Islanders who are in need or may not have access to fresh produce, including elderly, low income families, senior centers, and even school cafeterias, have access to it because of Island Grown Gleaning.

Uma gets particular joy out of the tomatoes she has helped harvest.  This year, they were able to harvest about 600 pounds of tomatoes, 400 pounds of which was turned into sauce.  This is a lot of sauce which took volunteers a significant amount of time to make.

Some of the sauce has been frozen and will be used for the free weekly meals at the West Tisbury Congregational Church starting in January.  Imagine, all of those tomatoes would have been left to rot or be turned into compost if not for Island Grown Gleaning.  Now dozens of people will be getting a warm, healthy meal from them.

Island Grown Gleaning’s season is typically July through November, though last year they were able to harvest up until Christmas.   The gleanings are held Tuesday mornings, at 9:30 a.m. and last about an hour or so.  Thinking about a fun way to give back to the community?

Perhaps gleaning might interest you.  Just reach out to Jaime, or 508-687-9603.  It’s a rewarding fun way to really help our neighbors.

Thanksgiving Island Grown Gleaning At Morning Glory FarmThey can always use more volunteers and here are some surprising figures from Island Grown Gleaning that show why what they do, is so important and why you may want to help: one in 10 Island families receive food assistance during the year; Dukes County has the lowest per capita income levels in the state; and most school lunch programs only have about $1.00 to buy food for each meal.  Now imagine all this, in 2011, Island Grown Gleaning distributed 22,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables.

You can make a difference.  This holiday season, let’s try to remember that we have so much to be thankful for.  Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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