Kathy Tremblay, Kim McMann, Jeanne Feder, Erik Romano, Avie Kalker, Darlene Ellis and Paula Foye at the fourth gleaning at Ioka Farm. Rudy, the dog, also helped by 'cleaning' up the broken gourds. Not pictured are Gordon Clark and picture-taker Kathy Keeser. Below, good but leftover kohlrabi, left, and gourds and squashes.
HANCOCK, Mass. — Five successful gleanings, or picking of extra farm produce, by Hoosac Harvest volunteers this fall collected more than 3,200 pounds of food for local food pantries.
The last two pickings at Ioka Valley Farm brought in 3,100 pounds of edible squash and pumpkins that were distributed through the Friendship Center food pantry in North Adams and to an additional 14 Berkshire County food pantries through the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts' food depot in Pittsfield.
The three gleanings at Square Root Farm in Clarksburg netted a couple of hundred pounds of produce in successive pickings of purple kohlrabi, bush beans and Swiss chard that were donated to the Friendship Center, The Dream Center and the Berkshire Food Project, all food programs located in North Adams. In addition, more than 50 jack o' lanterns, each weighing 10 to 12 pounds, were picked at Ioka Farm and distributed directly to families in the Greylock Valley and Mohawk Forest neighborhoods in North Adams the weekend before Halloween.
Gleaning is the practice of gathering crops left in the field after the farmer has harvested. There are many reasons why a farmer might not be able to use all that she or he has grown. Sometimes the crop is more than the farm can sell or harvest. Other times, the produce is slightly damaged or undersized, but still edible. Instead of going to the compost pile or being plowed under, this food can go to those without access to fresh produce.
Seeing good food go to good use is as satisfying for the farmer as it is for the volunteers and recipients. Gleaning groups are now popping up all over Massachusetts and are encouraged by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture.
"I think that gleaning is a great way to provide fresh, locally grown vegetables to North Berkshire residents, especially those who use food pantries. I hate to see good food go to waste and it is fun to harvest with a small group of volunteers," said Caroline Scully, Hoosac Harvest chairman and lead organizer for the gleaning project. "Most farmers also appreciate seeing their produce go to good use. The Massachusetts Department of Agriculture is encouraging gleaning activities all over the state this year so the timing is perfect for Hoosac Harvest to branch out with the program."
Hoosac Harvest works with participating farmers to schedule small groups of volunteers to glean, sometimes at short notice, and following the farmer's direction about where and how to harvest. This year, partnerships with Square Roots and Ioka Valley farms were successful in arranging gleanings. Hoosac Harvest plans to expand the program next season to more local farms.
After the first gleaning of purple kohlrabi, a vegetable that may not be familiar to everyone, Denise Krutiak, volunteer coordinator at the Friendship Center, said, "The kohlrabi was all taken and, like all the produce we get at the Friendship Center, it went quickly. We really appreciate all the produce we receive and with all the people coming to the pantry, we can use lots more."
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