Our Founder's Story
Gleaning dates back beyond renaissance Europe to biblical times and is still practiced by people in need in places outside the U.S. Boston Area Gleaners is a slightly different incarnation, though; volunteer crews go to farms throughout eastern Massachusetts and harvest leftover crops for food pantries.
I had been involved in gleaning farms back in the 1990s for Food For Free. Food For Free originally gleaned from produce stores like Whole Foods so it was a natural step to glean from farms. Ari Kurtz of Linden Tree Farm in Lincoln proposed to set aside three quarters of an acre to grow greens that were not commonly sold in supermarkets, and I helped coordinate that. We called the project Field of Greens. When we discovered there was fallow ground at the old UMass Field Station in Waltham, myself and several other people from the gleaning crews determined to farm for food pantries there. The farm came to be called Waltham Fields Community Farm.
BAG officially got started in the summer of 2004. Retired from Waltham Fields Community Farm where I had been volunteer director, I contacted farmers to see if they had any crops left in the fields for gleaning. The first farmer that I called, Ray Mong of Applefield Farm in Stow, responded that they had four rows of over-ripe beets that I could pick. Setting forth with fellow volunteer, Marina Montraki, we picked the beets over several days. This led to Ray letting us harvest extra collards, kale, and carrots also.
In 2008, we essentially tripled our 2007 totals. Hayden Crilley, an amateur farmer with business experience partnered with us. Hayden initiated produce store salvage, collecting good quality potato seconds from Wilsons Farm and loaves of artisan breads.
The 2009 farm gleaning season started out with Steve Violette of Dick’s Market Garden offering us a share of his abundant strawberries. Our crews picked 200 quarts, most of which we delivered to Rosie’s Place shelter for women and the Pine Street Inn in Boston. Then a new partnership with the Gore Place was started: Scott Clarke, the grounds keeper, planted a field of winter squash for B.A.G.
--- Oakes Plimpton
Oakes is now an Emeritus member of the advisory council and he & his wife Pat still support the Gleaners.