Originally published in The Weekly Packet, November 27, 2013
Gleaning the Blue Hill Peninsula
Farmers and local organizations pitch in to help
Zoe and Tammy Vu at Clayfield Farm harvesting tomatoes to be distributed using Farm Drop, at Blue Hill Wine Shop, as a drop-off/pick up center.
by Anne Berleant
The act of “gleaning,” or gathering crops left behind by commercial agriculture, has a long history of providing for those in need of food.
Healthy Acadia has started a Hancock County Gleaning Initiative, in partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, to “glean and distribute healthful food across the region,” according to recent press release.
The latest to volunteer to help is online farmers market Farm Drop, managed by Mary Alice Hurvitt. Three of its Farm Drop farms—Backstage Farm, Four Season Farm and Clayfield Farm—who allow volunteers to harvest “gleanings,” are now delivering the results to the Blue Hill Wine Shop, Farm Drop’s distribution center, with their own weekly deliveries. Gleaning Initiative staff and volunteers then picked up and distributed the food.
Locally, King Hill Farm in Penobscot, and Four Season Farm in Harborside, have also supported the project in 2013.
“They allowed gleaners to come onto their land and harvest food,” said Hannah Semler, Healthy Acadia’s Gleaning Coordinator, in a recent phone call. If needed, the farmers also provided tools, containers and transportation of produce to distribution centers. In addition, Old Ackley Farm in Blue Hill has harvested produce to donate to the Initiative.
Peninsula farms have a tradition of helping local food initiatives. Horsepower Farm of Penobscot C&G Growers in Sedgwick and the Good Life Center have made a practice of donating food to the Tree of Life Food Pantry and Simmering Pot Community Meal in Blue Hill.
In the summer of 2013, a Food Insecurity Group, formed of Peninsula residents and organizations, began to hold monthly meetings.
“This is a critical time for us to expand our efforts and to build systems to provide healthy food for those experiencing food insecurity,” said group member and gleaning volunteer Mary Hartley of Brooksville. “We have the opportunity and responsibility to practice new ways to make a difference, such as gleaning.”
Over ten thousand pounds of local produce has been gleaned and redistributed by the Gleaning Initiative to food pantries and community meal sites throughout Hancock County in 2013, said Semler, with the help of more than 60 volunteers from the community.
Funding the project is United Way of Eastern Maine, supported by the City of Ellsworth and the Hancock County Planning Commission.