This piece about gleaning and foraging groups in California first appeared in the most recent e-newsletter from the Northern California chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local Campaign, a project of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. To sign up for the monthly e-newsletter, visit the Buy Fresh Buy Local website.
Got a cherry tree you just can't keep up with? A neighbor that never harvests their lemons? What if we could turn all that fallen fruit into good food? That's exactly what community groups, farmer associations, and activist foodies throughout California (and beyond) are doing, as reported by the New York Times recently. They're the gleaners, and they're feeding their communities and saving the world one perfectly good plum at a time.
The Lemon Lady of Contra Costa is Anna Chan of Clayton (left), who has embarked on a "one woman and toddler fruit harvesting campaign to feed the hungry." She collects produce from backyard trees and farmers markets to donate to food pantries. The North Berkeley Harvest group coordinates regular pick-ups of excess backyard fruit and donates it to local meal programs, and Petaluma Bounty likewise collects surplus fresh produce from backyards, farms, and businesses. Village Harvest organizes fruit tree gleaning throughout the Bay Area, and offers information and resources on fruit tree care and preservation as well. In San Francisco, the Free Farm Stand gives out fresh local food free of charge every Sunday. "We want to make sure those on tight budgets and low incomes have access to good, local organic food as well," says Tree, who started the project last summer.
In southern California, groups like Inland Empire Urban Fruit Harvest, Food Forward, Backyard Harvest, and SoCal Harvest are gleaning backyard produce for the hungry from Santa Barbara to Riverside. Gleaning projects take as many forms as there are willing hands and good intentions. Taking gleaning beyond the backyard, Ag Against Hunger organizes farmers and volunteers on the central coast to get surplus produce from commercial fields onto the plates of those who need it. LA's Fallen Fruit and Forage Oakland in the Bay Area envision gleaning as a transformative act that can change the way we see our neighbors and our neighborhoods. Can't find a gleaning group near you? Just get out there and pick some fruit!