What’s gleaning? Throughout the year, but especially during the harvest season, the Boston Area Gleaners (BAG) retrieves overripe, imperfect or hard-to-market fruits and vegetables that would otherwise be left in farmers’ fields. These foods are still edible and nutritious, and they are donated to agencies like the Greater Boston Food Bank and Food For Free. These organizations then distribute the food to local shelters and food pantries.
After having been on BAG’s mailing list for over a year now, I was finally able to help out at my first gleaning event! Gleaning events are often announced a couple days in advance, so it can be a little tough for those with full-time day jobs to join in, but there are weekend gleaning trips as well. I’m lucky enough that my employer gives me several hours of paid time a year to volunteer with a non-profit organization of my choosing.
I and five other volunteers met on a Wednesday afternoon at BAG’s headquarters in Waltham. We followed our fearless leader, Matt, to Dennis Busa Farm in Lexington where we spent about two and half hours picking 900 pounds of tomatoes, filling 36 cases!
As I stood among rows and rows of beautiful produce – huge green bell peppers, sprawling squash, vines full of pinkish and pointy-ended tomatoes I had never seen before – I considered all the hard work required to produce all this goodness that many of us simply devour without a second thought. The gleaning experience really opened my eyes to how much perfectly good food is considered “hard-to-market” and would likely go to waste without the Boston Area Gleaners. (In 2013, BAG gleaned over 88,000 pounds of food!)