This fall, Gildrien Farm had a conundrum: a field of nutritious carrots – and no easy way to get them to eaters.
The farmers had picked what they could confidently sell, leaving an acre of forked and misshapen carrots that they knew would be tough to find a market for. They’d donated surplus in the past, but it was usually already harvested and washed: easy for community gleaners to pick up. This time, it was several tons…still in the field. They wanted to know: can these carrots can feed our community instead of getting tilled into the soil?
Lily, gleaning coordinator at HOPE, jumped to action. HOPE is a member of the Vermont Gleaning Collective serving Addison County — where Gildrien Farm is located. Lily worked with the farmers to strategize a plan, drawing on others in the Collective for collaboration: Mary from the Glean Team at RAFFL, Rutland region’s gleaning group, and Theresa, Salvation Farm’s director. With Lily at the helm, logistics were determined, a call to volunteers sent out, and supplies gathered.
And on a beautiful fall morning with more than 35 volunteers, Lily, Theresa, & Mary led gleaners in harvesting a half acre – more than 8,000 pounds of delicious, sweet, crisp carrots!
After the glean, HOPE and RAFFL both took some gleanings back to their communities…with 11 overflowing pallets still remaining: the kind of volume our Vermont Commodity Program is designed to handle. Salvation Farms hired Black River Produce to ship the carrots to Winooski, where our facility doubles as a surplus crop food hub and workforce development training site.
Over several days, the Vermont Commodity Crew washed, quality-assessed, and bagged the carrots into hundreds of 3-pound and 25-pound bags: perfect for an individual, for families, and for meal programs.
With the carrots gleaned, cleaned, and packed – notification of available crops were sent to our partners around the state. These carrots will make their way to the region’s food shelves and meal programs, who in turn feed our neighbors with this wholesome, Vermont-grown crop!
What’s clear to us is that from start to finish, the process of managing surplus crops hinges on collaboration. In facilitating the process, we see, and are grateful for, all the people and organizations that come together to make it happen.
As 2016 draws to a close, Salvation Farms has been reflecting on what it holds most dear: loyal friends, inspiring coworkers, and meaningful work. When we think of what nourishes us, we picture not only wholesome food on our plates, but also all the partners that make our work possible. They challenge us to do better and, with us, they celebrate our shared successes.
<<< Where would we be without our roots?
As we re-establish our Lamoille Valley Gleaning program, we thank our anchors: long-time partner High Mowing Organic Seeds for sharing their cooler, making our delivery of quality crops to our neighbors possible, and to our downtown Morrisville office-mate the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).
>>> How do we demonstrate and measure the opportunity of our work?
This year, Elana Dean of Isgood Community Research worked with us to survey two key stakeholders in our work: farmers and food programs. Thanks to her design and analysis, we conclude the year with our latest report, Fresh Produce Needs Across Vermont, which reveals insights from food programs (food shelves, public schools, etc) on their desires and challenges in using fresh fruits and veggies. This newest report complements our earlier release of the Food Loss on Vermont Farms Study, the first empirical study of food loss in Vermont (and the first statewide in the nation), which calculated that more than 14 million pounds of edible crops that are left on farms each year. Together, these reports clarify the scope of what’s possible in our work to manage surplus: reducing food loss on farm and increasing the use of locally-grown food.
<<< What support and tools can we offer to advance the practice of gleaning in Vermont?
For the past year, Vermont Design Works has committed to increasing the Vermont Gleaning Collective’s impact—from designing the Vermont Gleaning Collective’s logo to overseeing critical website updates, making the site more user-friendly and enhancing functionality as an organizing and data tracking tool.
Also – thanks to the hard work of a UVM dietetics intern, we are now able to calculate the nutritional makeup of gleaned crops and the benefit these nutrients have on our health. For example, carrots get their orange color from Beta-carotene, which the body processes into vitamin A, essential for good eyesight. Those carrots we mentioned (more than 8,000 pounds from a single glean earlier this fall) provide one day’s requirement of Vitamin A for nearly 50,000 people!
>>> Who helps us craft our curriculum to offer a quality workforce development program?
Salvation Farms’ trainees benefit greatly from the committed engagement of diverse, caring, and talented community members. Educators from UVM Extension and Community College of Vermont, as well as independent consultants, offered an array of certifications, trainings, industry visits, and presentations.
Three UVM interns assisted with operations, educational programming, and outreach to regional partners.
We can’t do this alone and are inspired by the diversity of our partners, supporters, friends, and colleagues. As the year comes to a close we step back and cherish coming together to dedicate ourselves to each other in impactful work. We are reminded every day that we are not alone in making the world a more caring and resilient place to live.
Thank you for joining us.