Monday, October 12, 2009

Glorious Gleaning Galore

I remarked to someone yesterday that the line of tables of produce and boxes of fruit and tomatoes was almost as long as the line of people going down the sidewalk. I still believe small is beautiful, but I haven't yet figured out in my lifetime how to keep projects small. Our project continues to be personal and friendly and non-institutional, but we just have a lot of people coming and we happen to have a lot of produce some weeks. Actually it is really wonderful that one thing we are doing is making a lot of connections with people and as a result hooking up with a lot of resources for food that might otherwise be wasted.

We were off the charts this week in pounds of produce because of all the gleaning that happened, the amount of surplus food collected from organic farmers, and the big harvests from local gardens. I do think the harvest season is the winding down and in the ideal world we would be canning and storing all the summer bounty. Below is a chart of the amount of just the super local food that we either grew or picked this year:

On Wednesday two friends drove down to Davis together to meet another friend who lives down there to glean tomatoes on a farm somehow connected with the University. They had a big field of organic Roma tomatoes that the machines picked and there were a lot along the edges that were not picked. There was also a huge pile of tomatoes that was the dump pile of tomatoes that were slightly blemished or damaged. In three hours the three people picked over 500lbs of tomatoes and brought back to San Francisco (taking both from the dump pile and the picking them). My friend Gary who drove down there said there were a lot left that they didn't pick if anyone wants to go down again. One person made four gallons of tomato sauce that she gave me that I thought about canning and bringing to the stand, but I decided to give it to my friend who was making chili at Martin de Porres Sunday morning. The rest of the tomatoes I brought to the stand and a lot of them were given away, but people choose the more perfect tomatoes and a lot of the blemished ones were left over. I don't think they will be taken if I give them to the Food Bank so I might compost them or try to sort through them and make some more tomato sauce. If anyone reading this wants to cook down some tomatoes contact me soon. The lesson is that we can only give away so much produce if it is slightly blemished and like all wholesalers the produce we collect has to be in somewhat good shape if we are going to store it for any length of time.

Besides the tomato extravaganza, we also had approximately 800lbs of apples and maybe 100 lbs of pears from last week's pear picking. Three gleaning groups went up to pick apples on a piece of land in Placerville, a place known as Apple Hill. Besides all the apples brought back from two groups of gleaners, I have another fifteen boxes of apples brought today. We only gave away some of the apples and the rest will be stored for next week and some will be delivered to the Julian Pantry and other food programs.

Besides all the apples we brought from outside the city, there were apples neighbors brought from two or three more local trees (some that we picked last year) and then three others brought apples to share. Page brought a lot of produce from his Stanford garden and we had a record harvest again from Esperanza garden. The highlight of that harvest was the huge trombone squash and the eggplant (I love growing hot weather vegetables!). We also had vegetables from a local gardener who dropped off a bag of beautiful vegetables from her garden (and apples). I thought the different colors of cherry tomatoes was very impressive, especially the ones that Steve brought from his father's garden in Sebastopol. Did I mention the 20 or more boxes of organic strawberries that came from Veritable Vegetables, the big organic vegetable distributor in San Francisco?

On Saturday I participated in a garden work party at Lisa's backyard. About eight people showed up and we cleaned up her yard, making a huge pile of woody plants and invasive vines and a pile of leaves and weeds. There already was a planting bed in the backyard that we put manure in and then some people planted it with some vegetables starts I brought. It was a great day and everyone seemed to enjoy how it went. Lisa made lunch for everyone and I brought some strawberries for dessert.

I couldn't make it to the Sunday garden work day on Dolores St. but I heard it worked out well. The two garden anchors and Aliza were there and two other showed up. They cleared away a tree that had been cut down and made an archway to the garden. They also got some plans together for the garden.

Another great connection that was made is that Ania contacted me about these two new garden sites wanting to know if she could install grey water systems there. She just graduated from a class at OAEC on grey water and wants to practice what she learned. So she and her friend came out and talked to Lisa and Alisa and took measurements. It looks like Lisa place may work out.

Every week it seems I meet some new person doing something great or learn of something going on that excites me. At the end of the Farm Stand as we were closing up a man named Danny came by with a warm loaf of fresh bread that he had just baked. He blew my socks off telling me he likes to bake bread and give it away for free. He also likes to train people to bake bread. Being a baker myself who rarely bakes anymore it really turned me on with what he was doing right now. His bread was very tasty, a chewy sourdough. You can't beat fresh baked bread right out of the oven. Another amazing thing is that he just started baking five months ago and he will be celebrating in November baking and giving away a 1000 loaves. I suggested he bring some loaves to the Free Farm Stand next Sunday and he might do that. His website and blog is fun to check out too:

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