July 13, 2009

Corn for the City

Our gleaning initiative begins!

Early Saturday morning I took a beautiful country drive to Parker Farms in Colonial Beach, Virginia. I was on my way to Glean for the City’s inaugural event. As the event coordinator, I must admit, I was a little nervous. But that quickly turned to excitement as enthusiastic volunteers began to arrive. After a quick rundown of the gleaning process our group of 10 headed to the fields to meet Rod Parker. As we looked out across hundreds of acres of corn fields, comments by owner Rod Parker hammered home the scope of food waste; and the amazing opportunity this was for the food pantry.

“We have already gone through the fields and picked everything we can sell,” Rod said, “but most of what is left is perfectly good to eat. As you can see, there are 3 or 4 ears of edible corn left on every stalk.”
“How do we know if it’s good to eat?” one of the volunteers asked.
“Just give a good squeeze,” Rod responded. “If it’s fat and juicy, then pick it. You can even eat it raw off the cob. It’s like candy.”

A few volunteers took Rod’s suggestion and quickly discovered that the corn was delicious, even uncooked. Then it was time for us to hit the fields. Each volunteer took a couple of picking bags and a row of corn and got to work. And oh how the corn rolled in. I patrolled the edges of the fields, filling produce bins with bags from the volunteers. At times, it was tough to keep up with everybody! Most of the group were clearly amazed as they grabbed corn at a constant pace. “This is great!” one of them told me, “I cannot believe that all of this would have gone to waste. It’s so easy to glean corn, and you see the results of your work right away. I want to do this again!”

Before we knew it we had filled half of our containers in the first hour. After a short water break we stuffed the remaining containers in only 45 minutes. In total, we picked 1,500 lbs. of corn in two short hours.

With one last look at the BFC van, bulging full of corn, we left satisfied with a hard day’s work. This will feed over 1,000 hungry clients at Bread for the City over the next week. Thanks to the volunteers who made it possible!


Matt Siemer said...

P.S. The last couple of pictures on the slideshow are from Jeff's pickup at the West End Farmer's Market this Sunday--he picked up 700 total lbs. of corn, squash, peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon, apricots, cherries, nectarines, green beans, assorted greens, eggplants, and cucumbers.

A. Carper said...

Had a great time--was a very pleasant way to spend 2 hours outdoors with nice people and for a good cause. Also made me glad that it's not my full-time job. Thanks for organizing it, Jeff, and for sharing pix of our lean, mean gleaning machine.