If you’ve gleaned with Rebecca Leong, odds are that you’ve seen her way, way up at the very top of an apple tree. Rebecca is in her sixth season of volunteering with Boston Area Gleaners, and she’s honed her skills with many crops…but apples are her specialty. “I enjoy the outdoor activity,” she says, “successfully getting the last apple off a tree (every once in a while).”
It’s true: on more than one occasion last fall, Rebecca stayed in the orchard long past the official 3 hour mark, working with staff until twilight to clean up those last few trees. She’s modest about her level of skill and commitment: “I am way too slow and weak to do this for a living, and I appreciate the folks who do every time I am out gleaning.” Still, she’s so deeply committed to BAG’s work that she brushes off gleaning incidents that might put others off, including a tipped picking ladder, a dead porcupine under an apple tree, and an especially lengthy day gleaning corn at Verrill Farm, “with rows of corn that seemingly had no end.” As far as she’s concerned, it’s all in a day’s work.
Of course, there are other responsibilities that occupy Rebecca on a typical day. As an anesthesiologist, she primarily cares for cataract patients. while periodically working at Franciscan Children’s Hospital, anesthetizing patients with intellectual, behavioral, or psychiatric issues so that they can receive badly needed dental care.
Her connection to the BAG community goes back even before her first glean in 2014. She was a member of the CSA at Waltham Fields Community Farm, where BAG’s founder, Oakes Plimpton, was also instrumental. “I read an article about BAG which mentioned him, and at some point I asked for more detail from the volunteer staffing the BAG information table.”
Now Rebecca is a fixture of BAG’s gleaner family, and comes out regularly every year. “I am pained by the idea of crops rotting in the field, especially when there is a needy community that lacks sufficient fresh produce.” This feeling motivates her to pick one last apple tree or fill one last crate with ripe tomatoes. And that’s not all: she forages for wild foods, fishes from the beach, and generally thrives in the outdoors. “Dedicated, capable, and entertaining”—Rebecca's description of the BAG family, and a great description of Rebecca herself.
By Leah Costlow