Why Does the Gleaning Project Need a Coordinator?
The Gleaning Project doesn't need much stuff to be successful. We scrounge a lot. We recycle and reuse. We get creative. With donated vehicles, buckets and bags scavenged from local businesses, a cooler we tore out of a fried chicken restaurant that was going out of business... and an immense amount of volunteer help, we glean and distribute over 300,000 pounds of fresh produce to those in need in our community every year.
To accomplish that massive task, we do need paid staff to coordinate all the complex work it takes to get that done daily.
July 27, 2017 is a good example. This is a day-in-the-life of a Franklin County Gleaning Coordinator...
Arrive at the office at SCCAP (South Central Community Action Programs), ready for the day. It's gonna be a good one. It's gonna be a long one. Packed a lunch and a dinner kind of day...
Unload 500 pounds of cucumbers from our glean the night before. Set up the SCCAP Produce Stand for the morning...
Pack boxes for distribution. Discuss with our Produce Stand volunteer what food we have reserved for our Community Partners to distribute at their own locations, and what boxes our Food Mover volunteers will be picking up to deliver to other locations today...
Leave with 2 volunteers for Falling Spring Fruit Farm. This is a brand new grower donor and the first time we've gleaned there. Jonathan Benedict called us at 5:00 pm last night. "We have peaches," he said. Okay. We put out the word, calling and emailing some of our hardcore volunteers. By 10:00 am the next morning, we're at his farm to save those peaches.
Jonathan, the farmer, leads us out into the orchard. We're gleaning cling-stone peaches, too small (2 to 2 1/2" in diameter) for Falling Spring Fruit Farm to sell for much profit, and they've got lots more valuable peaches that need to be harvested instead.
One hour later, we've harvested 380 pounds of perfectly good peaches. We're invited to pick some small ears of sweet corn too while we're out there... So an additional 315 pounds of sweet corn is saved before it gets too hot today.
Back in the van. Back to SCCAP. There's more work to do...
Arrive at SCCAP and hurry up now. Unload those precious peaches and get ready to go back out.
Hook up the Glean Machine (our 15 passenger van) to Billy Cool (our mobile walk-in cooler). We need to keep Billy cold. We still have 1,000 lbs of cucumbers in the trailer that will be delivered tonight.
More, different volunteers meet us here at SCCAP at 1:00pm. Sherrie, Linda, and Halleigh. We load more empty boxes into the trailer and roll.
Arrive at Benedict's packinghouse. Derrick Benedict pulls out one bin of zucchini and one bin of summer squash, plus two more bins of cukes we have to turn down this time... "Next time and usually though!"... We just don't have enough space in the trailer.
While we sort produce and pack boxes, we talk about Franklin County agriculture, and career paths, and our pets...
1 hour at the packinghouse. 725 pounds of summer squash. 315 pounds of cucumbers. All of it not quite good enough for the grocery stores.
We say thank you to the farmer. Close the trailer up and roll.
Arrive back at SCCAP. Back Billy Cool in to his parking spot and plug him in. We'll hold all that produce until this evening's glean and delivery. Now time for coordinating some logistics.
Get on the phone with local growers to plan next week's gleans. Contact produce-distributing community partners to prepare them for what deliveries will come later this week. Reserve produce in our walk-in cooler for those deliveries. Get in touch with volunteer drivers for the organizations unable to pick up produce at our SCCAP Chambersburg office. Eat dinner quick, cause there's more work to do.
Get ready for a big sweet corn glean at Country Creek Produce Farm. Volunteer Rick and his pickup truck are gonna make this so much easier, yes! Load wheelbarrows, harvesting containers, cold water, and boxes we'll pack into for subsequent distribution. We roll...
Set up the sign-in table. Do some gleaner stretches. Share the 3 rules of gleaning. One team of volunteers heads out to the field to start picking sweet corn. One team of volunteers works to load the Project Big Love truck with the produce we picked up this afternoon. Project Big Love is one of our distributing community partners that has a giant event on Saturday.
18 volunteers. 1 1/2 hours. It's warm. We take breaks for water. Haul sacks full of sweet corn out of that field and load them into the Project Big Love truck.
Project Big Love receives 500 lbs of summer squash, 1000 lbs of cucumbers, and 840 lbs of sweet corn.
Thank the farmer. Thank our awesome volunteers... some of whom already helped us earlier in the day. It's just incredible the generosity of spirit and time and resources we're lucky enough to coordinate every day.
Roll home. Plug Billy in. Call it a day. A great day.
That's a lot of moving parts in a single day. That was just a Thursday in July in Franklin County. The coordinators of The Gleaning Project do this every single day during the growing and gleaning season.
It's our job to coordinate with over 80 farmers and gardeners in Franklin and Adams Counties. It's our job to collaborate with over 80 produce-distributing community partners. It's our job to organize and lead the incredible volunteers essential to connecting all those dots. It's our great privilege to do so.
This is why The Gleaning Project works so well and keeps getting better every year. We have paid staff who make this project so powerful. The model is simple - pay someone to make it their whole job to coordinate our local food system better. Give them the full-time opportunity to build all those relationships and manage all those logistics. And then they will go get everything - the food, the labor, (even the equipment!) - donated for free and distributed to those in need.
This is why The Gleaning Project created Glean-A-Mania.
We need our community's financial support to maintain this community solution. A penny per pound will go a long way to keeping our staff employed, our doors open, and our wheels rolling. South Central PA has so much produce, so much potential. The Gleaning Project and its coordinators deliver incredible value to our community. We hope you'll support our effort by pledging pennies now at thegleaningproject.org.