Farmers Fighting Food Insecurity

You have probably heard the adage, “three times a day, you need a farmer.” Here at The Gleaning Project, we have the unique fortune to be a direct link between farmers and community members, and that number feels more like sixty or seventy times a day.

We often highlight the simplicity of our model - farmers donate excess and unmarketable produce that would otherwise be lost, and we recover and redistribute it for free to community members who cannot otherwise afford fresh local fruits and vegetables. It’s a win-win. You probably know that we ‘glean’ fruits and veggies that would otherwise be left in the fields and orchards. You may even be one of hundreds of volunteers who have helped us harvest. But did you know that local farmers also donate market leftovers and pick-outs on a weekly basis? While we always thank our farmers, we want to take this opportunity to provide some more insight into some of the many farmers that support us, and share some tangible ideas of how you can support local agriculture.

One of the questions that invariably comes up when doing outreach about our work is, “why do farmers work with you?”

 Three Springs staff having a little fun in the middle of tomato season, photo courtesy of their Instagram, @3springsfruit.

Three Springs staff having a little fun in the middle of tomato season, photo courtesy of their Instagram, @3springsfruit.

We find this question difficult to answer, because we want people to understand that there are so many reasons why a farmer might have excess, and that it is truly through no fault of their own. Every season brings unexpected joys, but also challenges like weather, pests, lack of labor, a flooded market, fruit that is too big, too small, or “too ugly” and so much more. This season has been especially difficult with heavy rains, scorching heat, more rain, hail storms, and oh yah… did we mention the rain? Whatever the reason, we are so grateful for the farmers that work with us, and we want to make it easier for you to support them!

Three Springs Fruit Farm Aspers, PA

Monday mornings in Adams County start with the sound of the box truck door sliding open. After double checking that we have everything (farmer’s crates to return, pallets, and collapsible crates), we set out to our first stop of the morning, Three Springs Fruit Farm, where we are greeted by their friendly staff and pup.

After a long weekend of selling at markets in DC, Philadelphia, and other locations, they take the time to set aside their leftovers and help us load up the truck. You can support Three Springs by checking out their online store to buy preserves, apparel, and even a rustic cat house. Or you can support their own mission to waste less apples and make really good local cider by picking up a bottle of Ploughman Cider locally at Mason Dixon Distillery or Tommy’s Pizza.

“We want folks to support local farms even if it isn’t us. The difference is worth the effort in terms of the overall effect on our community… that has an impact on us, not a direct impact, but a meaningful impact on us here at Three Springs” -Ben Wenk

Rice Fruit Company Gardners, PA

We then make our way to our second Monday morning stop, Rice Fruit Company, who donates over 500 pounds of apples every single week— year round. The consistency of their donation allows us to support after school and backpack programs like El Centro and Ruth’s Harvest.

Dozens of local farmers sell their apples to Rice Fruit Co., where they are graded, packaged, and distributed up and down the East Coast. Leighton Rice encourages you to buy local, and that doesn’t just mean stopping by the farmers market (where he can often be found shopping on Saturday mornings). When buying apples at the grocery store or even Walmart (one of their biggest buyers), look for that little Rice sticker to support our local food economy.

Mickley’s Orchards and Farm Market Biglerville, PA

Next, we zip over to Mickley’s Orchards and Farm Market, where 5th generation farmer Bill Mickley greets us with a smile as he helps us load excess fruits and veggies onto the truck. If you live locally, take a drive through our beautiful farm country and stop by Mickley’s Market (2080 Potato Rd. Biglerville) or give Bill a call to purchase fresh produce.

McCleaf’s Orchard Biglerville, PA

Our little box truck is getting heavy as we pull into McCleaf’s Orchard, where music plays through speakers and we catch up with long-term staff in English and Spanish. Each week we’re excited to see what seasonal fruits and veggies they have for us, along with the steady flow of kale, collards, and chard. You can find McCleaf’s Orchard and their friendly staff at one of many farmers’ markets in the Mid-Atlantic region, or even stop by the farm to purchase directly (they accept WIC). Read more about the McCleaf family, their family-owned business, and where to find them here.

Hollabaugh Bros Biglerville, PA

Finally, we complete our Monday morning pick ups by stopping in at Hollabaugh Bros to pick up an assorted box of veggies before heading back to unload at SCCAP. Stop by Hollabaugh’s market just north of Biglerville center for delicious fall goodies, and check out their website for upcoming events or to sign up for their cooking classes.

These are just a few of the farmers we work with - please check out our full map of local growers who support us!

 Make or buy signs, buttons, t-shirts, or pins… there are plenty of ways to let our farmers know you support them.

Make or buy signs, buttons, t-shirts, or pins… there are plenty of ways to let our farmers know you support them.

The farms described above are all family owned businesses who have been around for many generations, who work hard to provide for their own families and grow produce for their community - both those who can afford it, and by donating to The Gleaning Project, those who cannot.

The solutions to food insecurity in our community are incredibly nuanced, and cannot be done by farmers alone. We hope you will be inspired not only by their hard work, but also by their belief in the power of local solutions to spark change.

Buying local, whether it is at Walmart, directly from your grower, or at a local market, truly makes a difference in the ability of farmers to continue supporting us and in the overall health of our local food economy.

We are so so grateful for our farmers and we hope you will join us in thinking about the role of farmers in fighting hunger during World Hunger Week (October 15th-20th).

Abby McElhineyComment