‘To glean,’ and ‘gleaning’ are mentioned almost 20 times in the Torah. While gleaning is not named specifically in the New Testament or the Quran, both invite us numerous times to share with those in need. If we think of Muslims, Jews and Christians as cousins rooted in Abraham, then go way back to the era of Moses and stories in the Torah. There you will find gleaning in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The Book of Ruth has a fun story where we find gleaning and Boaz, Ruth and Naomi.
In 2016, as a 62-year-old newbie in the local fresh organic food movement in southwest Ohio, there was much to learn. My first paycheck job in the movement was with the Our Harvest Cooperative. The cooperative grows mainly vegetables on about 11 acres of land at the Bahr Farm in College Hill. The Our Harvest team trained me, the newbie, to give tours of their operation to guests and potential customers.
My first solo tour was with Sister Judy and her colleague Mary. It was a cool, clean, gorgeous morning in August. Near the end of the tour, as we walked the gravel path back to our cars, Sister Judy asked me this question:
Sister Judy: Do you glean this farm?
Newbie: What is glean?
Sister Judy: You will find it in the Old Testament. The farmer invites those in need to come to the farm after the harvest is done. The gleaners clean the field of what is left and take it home and are invited to share it with others.
Newbie: I need to Google that.
So I searched on “Gleaning in Ohio” and found the Society of St. Andrew, a nation-wide food rescue and distribution ministry, and its Gleaning Network.
“Glean and Share” 2018 Pilot Project
In 2018, through a “Cincy Save the Food Fund” sustainable food system grant awarded to Our Harvest in February by Green Umbrella Regional Sustainability Alliance, we at Our Harvest, along with others from VITALITY Cincinnati, the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, the Julie Hanser Garden in Walnut Hills, Working in Neighborhoods and the North Fairmont Community Council will initiate a farm-gleaning pilot project based on the Gleaning Network’s model and endorsed by the USDA.
A group of volunteers will gather three or four times during the 2018 harvest season to glean the Our Harvest Bahr Farm of vegetables and one fruit farm in southwest Ohio or southeast Indiana, and distribute the food gathered to those in need. The project will utilize local volunteer networks and deliver thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables from local farms to low-income families and individuals in Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills, South Cumminsville, Millvale, and North Fairmont neighborhoods. Some of the vegetables and fruit of our labor will be kept by the gleaners, who will then be invited to share with family, friends and neighbors.
The project team will focus on the community building impact of a diverse population of volunteers from all walks of life who will share in these experiences. Volunteers for the project are currently being recruited by VITALITY Cincinnati.
Our goals are to feed hungry people, reduce waste and establish a Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) chapter in Cincinnati. Once established, the SoSA chapter will help make gleaning a sustaining dimension of the local food movement in the greater Cincinnati Tristate area in 2019 and beyond.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the Glean and Share program should contact Brian Shircliff at Vitalitycincinnati@gmail.com or 513.300.5174. To learn more about the Society of St. Andrew, visit www.endhunger.org.
Mike Eck is a Food Justice Advocate and is actively involved in the local organic food movement in southwest Ohio. Mike and his wife, Denise, are members of Christ Church, Glendale.