Gleaning collards in NC

A good friend recommended I try gleaning last summer. What is gleaning you might ask? Wikipedia defines it as, “the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest.” Great idea, right?! I was going to take the 5-year-old with me and teach her about doing for others, plus we would get dirty and learn even more about where our food comes from. Alas, the rogue hip wouldn’t allow it.  I fully plan on joining them this year once my hip is 100%. The same friend who recommended I check out gleaning, sent me Kimberly Adkison who graciously agreed to be interviewed about her experience gleaning in the triangle.


Gleaning collards

Question: Tell me about your experience gleaning, where did you go to glean, what did you do when you got there?

Answer: I’ve gleaned about 40 times over the past 7 years with the Society of St. Andrew and have gleaned all kinds of fruits and vegetables including strawberries, blueberries, peaches, grapes, lettuce, cabbage, corn, watermelons, yellow squash, turnips, peaches and sweet potatoes.  Blueberries are my favorite! Most recently I picked collards at a special New Year’s Eve gleaning at Leo Stalling’s farm in Louisburg, NC.  My 17-year old daughter and I drove about an hour to the farm.  Upon arrival, the field supervisor showed us how to cut the collard stock with a pair of loppers and remove the yellowish leaves.  Collards have very thick stems so we took turns cutting while the other person carried the huge green plants to a waiting pick-up truck.  There were about 50 other gleaners of all ages and I was happy to see a couple of familiar faces I had met gleaning several years ago.  Together we picked more than 6,000 pounds (that’s 3 tons!) of collards, which were delivered by multiple pick-up trucks to 12 subsidized elderly facilities, food pantries, food distribution agencies, and homeless shelters.   Collards are traditional New Year’s food in the South, so the recipients were delighted to receive the fresh greens thought to bring good luck and prosperity in the new year. Collards are also one of the most nutritious cruciferous vegetables loaded with vitamins A/C/K, folic acid, calcium and fiber.

Question: Is gleaning something you would recommend for older folks, kids, people with back problems, or is there a job for everyone?

Answer: My family started gleaning when my son was in a middle school club that encouraged community service.  That summer the N & O ran a moving article about a grateful woman who received fresh tomatoes from the gleaning program.  She was used to getting canned foods from the food pantry and this was the first fresh tomato she had eaten in something like 20 years.  Shortly thereafter, I saw an advertisement about gleaning in our church newsletter and signed us up to pick corn.  We went several times that summer and although this started out as a service activity for my son,  my younger daughter was the one who developed a passion for gleaning and continued into her later teenage years.  Gleaning is a great service activity for children and youth.  They are outdoors, there’s no need to be quiet, it doesn’t matter if they get dirty, they can take as many breaks as they need (gleaning is not forced labor!) –all while helping feed people who are hungry.  I’ve seen children as young as 4-5 years old in the field, but the little ones do need to be constantly supervised by a parent. There really is no upper age limit for gleaning, just need to consider that gleaning does involve some bending and light lifting and whether the individual is physically up to the task.  Some crops require more bending (strawberries) than others (corn) and some crops are heavier to carry (sweet potatoes) than others (blueberries).  At big events (e.g., Yam Jam) there are “desk” jobs at the registration table.  And some folks volunteer the use of their pick-up truck and transport the harvest to the food kitchens.

Question: Did you learn anything from this experience?

Answer: I learned that there is much truth to the saying “many hands make light work” and that any work can be fun when done with a group.

Question: How often do you glean, will this be something you participate in again?

Answer: Our church (First United Methodist Cary) has supported the Society of St. Andrew’s gleaning program for many years.  About 6 years ago I was asked to be the gleaning coordinator for our church group.  We plan an outing the 3rd Saturday of each month during the peak harvest months, May to October.  We typically get 8-15 volunteers and carpool to the farm in church vans.  Although the church group only gleans during the peak NC growing season, the Society of St. Andrew gleans year-round when crops are available.  Occasionally my family has gleaned on New Year’s Eve, Martin Luther King Day, and some summer evenings when blueberries are in season.  Gleaning is something we can do as a family.  It’s easy and it feels good to know that these nutritious fruits and vegetables, which would otherwise go to waste, are going to folks in our local community who need and appreciate the food.

Question: What do you personally do to stay healthy?

Answer: I like to eat as many locally grown fruits and vegetables as possible and make bi-weekly trips to the state farmer’s market from about March until November.  We also grow our own sugar snap peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, figs, pears, and herbs on our tiny Cary lot and belong to the Gracious Harvest community garden in downtown Cary.  I would love to say that we are healthy eaters, but that’s not true.  My daughter and I both like to bake and I often find it challenging to limit myself to one serving (or even 3 servings) of whatever warm treat just came out of the oven.  I try to counteract the overindulgence  with exercise.  When it comes to exercise for me, variety is the spice of life. I prefer exercising outdoors and enjoy biking and hiking, when the weather is good.  In the summer I swim, and in the coldest part of winter I’m likely to be on an elliptical trainer at the gym.  I also do yoga 2-3 times a week. [Loretta from Yoga-Mojo is the best!]

Thanks to Kimberly for being interviewed and sharing your story, and for working so hard to feed the hungry in your community. The Society of St. Andrew is a nationwide non-profit working to salvage food and feed the hungry. From January – November of 2013 they have gleaned 21.1 millions pounds of food. Amazing! Check out their website if you want to get involved. If you live in the Triangle, send an email to the Triangle Coordinator to get involved.

Amanda Baley (188 Posts)

Amanda Baley is a stay at home rock star to two beautiful angel babies. Her background includes a decade of marketing for engineering firms. She has recently been dabbling in marketing consulting and public relations. For now, she is smooching on babies, making a heck of a lot of food, and running, and smiling!

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