Go Gleaning (Please)

Six years ago, I went gleaning for the first time, gathering sweet potatoes in rural North Carolina.

A year ago, I went through a brief training so as to coordinate future gleaning outings.

Yesterday, I got to supervise one such outing–gleaning sweet potatoes, of course (it is North Carolina). The volunteers were mostly a troupe of girl scouts, who got a valuable lesson in where their food comes from and how much of it is regularly wasted.

The arithmetic looked like this: 20 people + 2 hours = 600 lbs. of sweet potatoes recovered (as pictured). While we worked for a little more than two hours, we could have gleaned that field for two weeks and still found more sweet potatoes.

I highly recommend volunteering with a gleaning operation (SOSA is a large one). In my mind, there’s no better way to honor the spirit of Food Day than by rescuing food that would otherwise be plowed under and get it to those in need.

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  1. Joe
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Hi, could you tell me a bit more about this please? I don’t think I fully understand it all. Why would the food have been ploughed under?

  2. Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Hey Joe,
    Usually the crops gleaned are things that wouldn’t be harvested because the price doesn’t justify the labor. It can be that there’s a glut of a certain crop or that a grower planted an extra field “just in case,” but there were no insect or weather problems. That’s the short answer; hope that helps.

  3. Posted November 4, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    While I do like the idea of gleaning to feed the hungry, there’s another way to look at this: organic matter plowed back into the soil actually enriches it. I’d be far more appalled to see the food harvested but neither eaten nor composted.

  4. lawrence
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    Ohhh the humanity. I just got back from the Kinston (NC) area. Holy Sweet Potato nightmare.
    Year before last, I had the opportunity to talk to the farmer, from whom my best friend rented, and got permission to take all the sweets I wanted as long as I did not sell them.

    Four rows, 30 minutes = 18 bags of sweet potatoes at about 10 pounds per bag. (that doesn’t count the one the size of a basketball).
    There were few thousand acres he had planted. I had to ask… WHY!???!

    The short explanation: the field is turned over and migrant workers collect only perfect size and shape potatoes. Those are then graded for appearance, ‘damaged’ ones go to canning the the perfect ones to grocery stores. The left over TONS are left to rot (smelly!) and plowed in.

    Wish I had taken his number and gotten permission to pick up ‘taters’ every year.

  5. Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

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