November 9, 2009

Chopping Broccoli

On a gorgeous fall morning, Glean for the City made our long anticipated return to Parker Farms. Two previously scheduled trips had been rained out, but now we finally got our first crack at broccoli gleaning.

It was worth the wait. 20 volunteers -- from the Historic Anacostia Block Association (HABA), a local neighborhood association, the ANC 8A (03), and White and Case -- armed with knives and enthusiasm, stormed the vast broccoli patches. Rod Parker himself generously gave our volunteers a tour of his facility, then took us into the fields and showed us the ropes of chopping broccoli.

“Just look for a good head of broccoli, it shouldn’t be hard to find. You won’t even be able to put a dent into this field, even if you fill the van to capacity.”

Rod was right. In just 1 hour and 15 minutes, our volunteers had stuffed every single produce bin. They refused to quit, and filled every picking bag to capacity as well. As folks began to stack the days take, two intrepid volunteers remained in the fields, stubbornly forcing broccoli into the final two bags.

“I don’t want to leave. There is so much fantastic broccoli left, it breaks my heart to just leave it out here!” Another volunteer carrying an arm full of broccoli remarked, “How is this possible? There are thousands of starving families in DC, and all of this produce is just rotting in the fields!”

Volunteers loved gleaning this crop. Unlike apple gleaning, broccoli needs to be cut and cleaned, and feels more like true harvesting. We had to scrape together knives from the BFC kitchen for this event. Thanks to the generosity of Andrea Messina and the Georgetown MBA Volunteers, we won’t have to worry about knives again. Even though Andrea's gleaning event was rained out she still set up a donation of 32 knives to Glean for the City. This gives us the tools to tackle any crop we please; and should be a big help as we expand the variety next season.

A special thanks to Mana Rabiee of WAMU(NPR) for joining us to cover Glean for the City. She interviewed Rod Parker, spoke with volunteers, and even helped us load the broccoli after gleaning! Check out the podcast here.

Since the WAMU report, we've been flooded with offers to volunteer for gleaning. We're thrilled to have so much support from the community -- and strangely sorry to announce that we're already booked through the remainder of the gleaning season. But we are already filling slots for next season, when we'll be gleaning strawberries as early as May! Email me to sign up.

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