By Erin Feeney
According to farmfresh.org, Eastern Massachusetts has over 1,200 fruit and vegetable farms. This profusion of locally available produce is enjoyed by great numbers of Bay Staters. While the local food movement is increasing in popularity in Massachusetts and around the nation, much of the food being produced is lost to waste. On average, up to 40 percent of agricultural production is wasted from ‘farm to fork to landfill’ due to modern farming practices as well as losses, particularly of perishable product, all along the supply chain.
Boston Area Gleaners’ (BAG) mission is to remedy part of this waste by harvesting and delivering gleaned produce to food pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens. Gleaning is a biblical term referring to the law of those times that required farmers to let peasants onto their farms after the harvest to “glean” whatever produce was left in the fields. Produce is left in the fields for various reasons. Sometimes crops are planted as a bumper in case others fail. If these crops are not needed, the farmer will usually plow it under. Other factors include the imperfection of harvest machinery, impending weather, highly successful seed propagation, closing markets, or slight damage caused by frost or pests, making it therefore difficult to sell.
All produce gleaned by BAG volunteers is donated to food agencies. Farmers receive no financial benefit; most decide to call in the Gleaners because of their own moral compass. However, because of the cost of labor, even if farmers wish to donate their surplus, they cannot afford to harvest it if it will not be sold. This is the gap that BAG’s volunteers fill with their labor. Volunteers experience the beauty of local farms and learn about the realities of farming, an excellent opportunity for the reintroduction of lost farming and food knowledge. By providing gleaning services to local farmers, BAG aids farmers in improving food in the Boston area. BAG has gleaned over 250K pounds since the project began in 2004 and we can do so much more with your help!
And don’t forget to visit our website at http://www.bostonareagleaners.org!