Publishers' Note Summer 2008

Jars of pickles

Written on

June 01 , 2008

As the weather warms here in Vermont, we get to experience the promise of another growing season. But many people in our communities struggle with food security, unable to get access to Vermont’s amazing bounty. Summer is a good time to think of these community members. Here are some ways that we can make a difference.

If you have a backyard garden, plant an extra row and donate the vegetables to your local food shelf. These could be tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, zucchini, potatoes, or a combination of your choice. Most of the food on food pantry shelves is processed, so by providing fresh produce you can directly enhance someone’s diet with nutritious alternatives.

Some tips to keep in mind when donating food: grow and give common vegetables and fruits that people will recognize; provide hardy produce that can take a fair amount of handling; make sure that vegetables and fruits are ripe but not overgrown (giant zucchinis are better for the compost pile!); and check with your local food shelf to find out what fresh produce would be best for them.

Another way to support fellow community members is to volunteer with a local gleaning project. Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they are no longer economically profitable to harvest. This practice has a long history going back thousands of years. Salvation Farms, a very successful gleaning project that started in Craftsbury in 2004, is now a program of the Vermont Foodbank. In the three years they’ve been in existence, Salvation Farms has gleaned more than 88,000 pounds of produce and distributed to more than 40 sites, including local emergency food shelves, educational and caregiving institutions, retirement communities, and non-profits. Their goal now is to create a gleaning network throughout Vermont.

If you’re a farmer, you can open up your farm to a gleaning project at no cost. In return, your fields are visited by volunteer crews who have been educated in harvesting techniques. Those of us who are not farmers can be part of a volunteer crew. The Vermont Foodbank is creating a manual for community-based gleaning that will educate and guide folks who would like to glean on a community scale with assistance from the Foodbank. The manual will be available for interested individuals or community groups sometime in June. You can find more information at www.salvationfarms.org or www.vtfoodbank.org.

It’s as simple as ABC: Agriculture Builds Community. When we involve ourselves in the welfare of our neighbors, we all benefit. Let’s share the bounty!

Barbi Schreiber
Meg Lucas

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Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape ties into larger questions of sustainability and the future of our food supply.