Helen Palmer remembers when she first heard about BAG—it was at a fair in Cambridge on green activism—and the moment itself is crystal clear.
“I signed up at once,” she said. “In a way, you don’t need to be convinced. It’s just such a no-brainer. If you think about it, it’s very simply forging a link in the chain that’s missing.” It’s filling a need for farmers, who have produce to spare, and for families, who are hungry for it.
Early on, Palmer, who is 72 and a public radio producer, would make harvesting trips with BAG founder Oakes Plimpton in the days when the organization was still getting grounded. Some of the expeditions were memorable.
“I recall going out in the snow to glean potatoes only to discover they were frozen in the ground,” said Palmer. Nowadays, things are a little more organized. And from the beginning, said Palmer, some really dedicated farmers were part of the initiative, even though there was no way for them to write their BAG contributions off their taxes, and they had to put up with strangers, many of whom knew little about farming, out their fields.
“I think the teamwork is absolutely awesome,” said Palmer. “I think the farmers are heroes. And I think the staff are amazing in terms of the amount of work they do.”
Not only does BAG attract hard workers, said Palmer, all of them are personable.
“The amazing thing is I’ve never met anyone at the gleaners that isn’t nice,” she said. “When it comes to the staff, they have such a great work ethic…I’m awed by them.”
And for Palmer, whose professional life requires her to spend a good deal of time behind a computer, thinking, the chance to dig in the dirt for three or six hours a week is a good antidote.
“It’s a perfect recreation for me,” she said. And inspirational, too. Though Palmer, who lives in Cambridge, has a garden and works conscientiously at it, she says she’s not terribly efficient. So, when she goes out to a farm and sees what’s possible, it’s exhilarating.
“People who know what they’re doing can produce these amazing crops that are there at the peak of their freshness, and to deliver to people who otherwise wouldn’t get it—it’s just so perfect,” said Palmer.