Gleaning Wisdom: A Busy Fall for Farm to Food Bank
Good fall greetings everyone! Each September during Hunger Action Month, we ask people to take a stand against hunger in support of our neighbors in need.
Unfortunately, many in our society only think of hunger around the holidays, but Hunger Action Month helps remind us that people need to eat 365 days of the year to survive and thrive. With that being said, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the great events that I participated in, representing the Farm to Food Bank program during Hunger Action Month 2020.
Early September Travels
At the beginning of the month, I traveled to Baltimore County near the Reisterstown area. There, a farmer had planted 44 lengthy rows (about the length of a football field) of sweet corn with the sole intention of donating his harvest to the Maryland Food Bank. On two occasions, volunteers visited his farm and harvested several thousand pounds of the fresh vegetable. The second group of volunteers really showed their resiliency – harvesting corn in the rain. It was so mucky in fact, that the farmer had to rescue me from the field with his tractor as the truck could not gain enough traction! Once I got out, it was time to take the next steps with the Farm to Food Bank produce.
What happened next with this harvested sweet corn was a little different than is typical of the Farm to Food Bank process. In doing some research, I learned that there is an MFB Network Partner down the road called the Reisterstown Community Crisis Center. At this site, a kind person named Eileen works with some wonderful individuals to distribute food to those in need two to three times per week. On a typical Monday, she has about 100 families come through seeking food. With us harvesting this corn on a Monday morning, Eileen was very happy to accept a portion of the sweet corn for distribution! The remainder of the corn went to the Anne Arundel County Food Bank.
“The feeling we (the farmer, his wife, volunteers, myself, and the partners) had after these two harvests cannot be described. Coming together for the greater good of the community provides such a high and is something that this world needs more of.”
Making the Mid-Month Rounds
Another highlight from this past Hunger Action Month was the continued generosity of Black Gold Farms out of Dorchester County. They planted a patch of sweet corn, sweet potatoes, and red potatoes, all with the intention of donating to the Maryland Food Bank. Black Gold Farms was able to mechanically harvest the red potatoes, which were taken to a local small farmer who kindly used his sorting and bagging machine to place the potatoes into 20-pound bags. In the past these potatoes would have been picked up by volunteers and placed into 24” cardboard bins. But with COVID-19, we were trying to make distribution a little easier on our partners by bagging them. These did go to the MFB—Eastern Shore facility and have been distributed across the eight counties that branch serves.
And no fall would be complete without a visit to the retired doctor that resides on Kent Island and lets us harvest apples from the orchard on his property. While not quite the bounty we have been fortunate enough to have had in the past, volunteers did harvest about 2,000 pounds of apples that also made their way to a few lucky MFB partners on the Shore.
Ending Hunger Action Month, Nearing the End of the Season
The end of September was a whirlwind of Farm to Food Bank activity. I was fortunate enough to oversee a group of volunteers gleaning collards from Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder’s field outside of Preston in Caroline County.
You may not be aware, but Maryland Governor Hogan encourages Maryland state employees to engage in a day of service. Since his inauguration, Secretary Bartenfelder has encouraged his senior staff to support MFB in gleanings. He even stepped up when gleaning opportunities were limited, offering his own two patches of collards to be gleaned. In the past, his staff has gleaned apples, pumpkins, and fall squash.
Next, I was honored to travel up to First Fruits Farm in northern Baltimore County to accept a Farm to Food Bank monetary donation!!! The impact this generous financial donation will have on hungry Marylanders is tremendous.
On September 21, I was fortunate enough to appear on the Mid Atlantic Farm Credit podcast. The episode, titled “Bridging the Gap Between Producers and Neighbors in Need,” gave me the chance to share how I got involved with the Farm to Food Bank program about a decade ago, how the program works, and why it is so important to the well-being of all Marylanders. Listen to the podcast.
Finally, I traded green farm fields for greens as I attended the 2020 Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce / Salisbury, MD Golf Classic. A special thanks to loyal Farm to Food Bank volunteer Matt Teffeau who now works for Choptank Electric. Choptank Electric sponsored a raffle at the tournament’s 5th hole, raising $703 for the Maryland Food Bank!
I am so humbled by the way Marylanders have risen to the occasion and supported our Farm to Food Bank Program during Hunger Action Month. But as I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, Marylanders need to eat well all year long to survive and thrive. That’s why the Farm to Food Bank program is so important!
In my next blog, I’ll share some of the unique things that happened during the 2020 Farm to Food Bank season (including how COVID-19 has changed farming) and give you a little preview of our 2021 plans.
Help Get Fresh Produce From Farms to the Food Bank
If you have time in your schedule and you need a “pick me up,” I strongly encourage you to volunteer in your community. You can visit our Volunteer page to find gleaning opportunities with me and the Farm to Food Bank program, as well as available shifts at our Baltimore, Salisbury, and Hagerstown location.