By Charlotte Border, Seasonal Gleaning Coordinator
With cooler nights and fall colors on the way, summer is already beginning to draw to a close. You may not have focused on it directly, but there have been many more sunny days this summer than the average. While this has been great for summer travelers, it has devastated many of our local farmers.
Just days ago, the drought in the Greater Boston area was classified as ‘extreme'--a level up from its previous label of 'severe.' The severity of the drought is due to a number of factors including the mild and low-precipitation winter earlier this year, average summer temperatures 6-10 degrees higher than normal, and a cumulative precipitation 65% below normal over past three months. The drought in our area is very serious and, despite farmers' best efforts, is beginning to take a toll.
Boston Area Gleaners has been able to see the unique effects of the drought on each of our partner farms:
By Charlotte Border, Seasonal Gleaning Coordinator
Welcome back to another exciting season with the Boston Area Gleaners! I know that everyone here at BAG is excited to get out of the office and into the field again, and we hope that you are too. If you haven’t been gleaning with us this season yet, allow me to introduce myself…. I’m Charlotte, the newest BAG team member. I started my position as the seasonal gleaning coordinator at the beginning of June. Before June I was living on the West coast, so the fact that I even found BAG is a happy stroke of luck. I would have never thought to look for a major on-farm gleaning organization out of Boston, but luckily for me, the internet has a way of bringing you things you aren’t looking for! And honestly, the fact that BAG is based out of Boston makes what they do both even more impressive, and important.
It’s been a whirlwind first month of learning the ropes as we ramp up for our biggest season yet. Here’s a quick run-through of the most important things I’ve learned so far, it may give you some insight into the nuances of our organization…
By Rebecca Fennel
As the gleaning season winds down, so does my term as assistant delivery driver. Matt and Dylan are very busy Gleaning Coordinators, so they need some assistance distributing produce. Most Tuesdays in October-December, I left my Development desk to help deliver food to our partner food pantries.
This position, generously funded by the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation as a part of their Healthy Food Fund initiative, will soon be passed on to a new staff member. In the spring we will hire a Delivery and Gleaning Assistant, who will be responsible for making direct-to-pantry deliveries, as well as trips to large farms to help with high-volume gleans. We will also be purchasing a new vehicle (funded by Harvard Pilgrim) so that direct deliveries do not interfere with gleaning trips.
Here's what a typical Tuesday looked like:
As you can see, it was a busy day, but it was so nice to delve into the operations side of our work. I spend most of my time writing about what we do, so it was a wonderful educational experience to be able to actively participate in the provision of healthy food, and to see the faces of our recipients. I also am proud to say that I can now drive a van!
I will be sad to leave the driver's seat, but excited to pass my role onto the next person. Many thanks to the Foundation for making this experience--and the many deliveries I made over the past few months--possible!
By Ellen Rothman, Volunteer Gleaner
A few weeks ago, I joined a group from BAG at Daily Table the country’s first—and so far only—non-profit supermarket. I came away from the visit with Doug Rauch, the market’s visionary founder and president, so inspired that my friends and family suspected I might move to Codman Square.
It was thrilling—a word I rarely use but I was thrilled—to see kale and sweet potatoes gleaned that very week piled high in bins—but not at prices—reminiscent of Trader Joe’s (where Rauch worked for 31 years). In December alone, Daily Table received almost 14,000 pounds of fresh food from BAG.
Membership in Daily Table is free, and anyone can join. Since it opened in Dorchester last June, 5,000 people have done so, 82% of them from low-income neighborhoods.
Looking around at the Stonyfield yogurt, Perdue chicken, hummus from the Sabra Dipping Company, Fresh Express greens—all priced to be within reach of a household relying on SNAP (AKA food stamps)—it was easy to believe that sales have increased 65% since the launch. And that was before we went into the state-of-the-art kitchen, where some of Daily Table’s 32 employees prepare the soups, casseroles, salads, and other healthy, affordable, ready-to-eat meals (and delicious yogurt smoothies) that the Codman Square community told Rauch’s team it needed.
As Daily Table strives to become a model for similar ventures elsewhere in Boston and around the country, it relies on foundations, suppliers and donors of food, and volunteers (357 in number) to operate. If you miss gleaning this winter, Daily Table can use you. There is a volunteer form on the website. Just be sure you come back in the spring so BAG can continue to be a vital part of this innovative venture.
By Rebecca Fennel, Development Assistant
This Saturday, October 24 will be an especially exiting day for us. We're celebrating Food Day--a national day to take action to solve food-related issues. This year, Food Day's theme is "Toward a Greener Diet," which aligns perfectly with BAG's mission to ensure everyone's access to healthy, fresh, and local food.
This year, we're collaborating with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to expand our distributive reach. With the help of MDAR, Saturday's operations will include a different set of recipient agencies from those who normally receive gleaned produce. These organizations include WIC (Women, Infant, & Children) agencies, Mass in Motion offices, and educational programs across eastern MA:
Because it's an incredibly good year for apples, we'll be distributing over 1,200 pounds of crunchy, tasty ones to the above organizations. We're so glad that MDAR is helping us provide awareness about gleaning to hundreds of new individuals and families on Food Day!
This past month has been all about apples! In September alone, we gleaned 40,980 pounds (1046 bushels) of apples. Most of this crop came from two farms, Connemara House Farm, a private family orchard in Topsfield, and Kimball Fruit Farm, a large market farm in Pepperell. Additionally, we added another strong source of apples in Sholan Farms, a community owned and run non-profit farm in Leominster with an incredible community vibe.
Other than apples, we gleaned 35 other varieties of crops in September, second to apples being corn (12,090 pounds from Brigham Farm, Kimball Fruit Farm, and Dennis Busa Farm), and third being watermelon (2,978 pounds from Appleton Farms and The Food Project-Lincoln). This was the most melon we have ever gleaned (with an additional 1500 pounds gleaned in early October!). Specifically at The Food Project, they had harvested all they wanted from the field for their CSA members, and before they plowed it all under, they gave us a call to go out glean it for donation. We also began working with WCI (Work Community Independence) Waltham, a private non-profit agency providing homes, employment and day supports to people with a wide range of intellectual and developmental disabilities; a few individuals from the organization helped us glean watermelon at The Food Project.
Looking forward to October, we hope to get all of the peppers, eggplants, and other frost sensitive crops we can before it gets too cold. And, of course, we will continue to glean as many apples as our volunteers can pick!
To the Harvest!
Lead Gleaning Coordinator
Emma Arnesty-Good loves to eat vegetables, and as a by-product likes to be around most produce. She's starting her senior year at Tufts this fall as an American Studies major. She likes to talk about institutions and power in the United States--something she thinks is quite relevant to the current state of food access.
As someone who's had a complicated relationship with where she wants to be (she grew up in the heart of San Francisco, but spends most of her time on rivers as a river guide/kayaker), she finds the border between Boston's foodshed and the dense population of the city a comforting combination.
Emma first learned of gleaning in an environmental English class that Duck came to visit last fall. Emma asked a lot of questions, which turned into one: "Can I intern for BAG?" It turns out that being bothersome gets you some places.
Emma is proving a very helpful intern thus far, lending a hand in the fields on weekends and doing some research projects, which include farm and agency mapping, as well as a food distribution analysis. She is very excited to be part of the team, and we are so glad to have her!
September is an exciting time of year for gleaning. It is probably one of the most varied months in terms of what is available for gleaning. One day we might be gleaning some surplus greens, the next we are in a 5-acre cornfield following behind the farm workers and picking the plantings of corn they skip over. Then we’ll get a call to come and pick over 30 apple trees, which, especially in a bumper crop year such as this, can often lead to 100+ bushels of apples gleaned in 1 day. But we are also still gleaning plenty of summer crops at this time of year, such as cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini. What an incredible bounty!
This variety is in large part due to the variety of farms that we work with. In 2015, we have kindled over 20 new relationships with farmers in Middlesex, Essex, Norfolk, and Worcester counties. So far this season, many of these new partner farms have reached out to us to donate their surplus, including: Clearview Farm in Sterling, Medway Community Farm, Powissett Farm in Dover, Stearns Farm CSA in Framingham, Silverwood Organic Farm in Sherborn, Brooksby Farm in Peabody, and Russell Orchards in Ipswich.
New farm relationships, increased capacity, and incredible efforts by volunteers, farmers, and staff to rescue leftover farm crops has lead us to already have gleaned and donated over 100,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruit. Here’s hoping to even more in the coming months!
To the Harvest!
Matt Crawford, Lead Gleaning Coordinator
If you are registered as a volunteer to glean with us and you receive the Gleaning Trip Alert emails, you may have some idea of how busy we've been lately! It's only the beginning of the apple season, but we've already gleaned 10,000 pounds of them so far (most from Connemara House Farm), plus more than 8,000 pounds of peaches from Dick's Market Garden, Brooksby Farm, Kimball Fruit Farm, and Clearview Farm.
We have also been gleaning typical summer crops like zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers. Corn has been coming in slowly so far because it's been a hot and dry summer. We are hoping for more rain for this crop, but in the meantime, peaches are still coming in strong.
With our new, larger capacity box truck, we hope to increase efficiency and organize larger gleaning trips, both in length and number of volunteers. We hope you can continue to help out as we strive to "Leave No Crop Behind"!
Written by Matt Crawford, Lead Gleaning Coordinator
Ben Jankowski is a superstar gleaner. We’ve been graced with his presence during his final month before heading off to college at UMass Amherst, where he will be double majoring in resource economics and sustainable food & farming. How’s that for an 18-year-old!?
During the month of August, Ben is working as an intern gleaning coordinator at BAG. He assists Matt and Dylan out in the fields by helping to lead volunteers, lifting heavy boxes, and doing produce deliveries.
Ben has been an avid gardener since he was young. He takes inspiration from his father who, at age seven, planted vegetables outside of his trailer home to feed to his family and to sell. Ben says, “I believe that that is where agriculture became part of my blood.”
Ben was introduced to the concept of gleaning a few years ago when he viewed the film The Gleaners & I (Les glaneurs et la glaneuse) in French class. He was intrigued by the idea, so he searched for gleaning organizations in Massachusetts and came across BAG.
With the help of Duck, Matt, Dylan, and Oakes, Ben formed a gleaning group at his high school. Although Ben thinks that the gleaning program won’t take off at his school, Ben learned a lot from developing the program. He went on several gleaning trips, interacted with farmers, and worked closely with the Mansfield Food Pantry in his hometown.
Ben plans to continue gleaning, and he hopes to build on his experience in farming and community service when he heads off to school. We are confident that Ben will move on to do great, great things throughout his years at college and beyond. Thank you, Ben, and good luck!