Volunteers glean nutrition for neighbors in need

Published 9:29 pm Wednesday, July 31, 2013

This weekend, gleaners will descend on Green River Farm Millspring armed with bug spray, hats, sunscreen and one quart freezer bags.

The harvest has reached its end, and the farm will give what’s left of its blueberries to the Gleaning Network of the St. Andrew Society.

In Polk County, fresh produce never needs to be plowed under after harvest or left in fields to rot, according to Bill Walker, area coordinator for the network.

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Volunteers like Bob Montgomery and his wife, Lynn, who have been part of the Society for 15 years, ensure the food will go to Thermal Belt Outreach, Steps to HOPE and senior citizen food programs, Montgomery said.

“It’s always comforting to know that you are helping a family with fresh produce,” Montgomery said. “Green River Farm sells blueberries early in the season, and when we come to glean, we tally the weight so we can let the blueberry farmers know how much they have contributed to others.”

The national organization, established in 1988, has more than 40,000 volunteers. The St. Andrew Society has supplied 23 million pounds of fresh produce to nonprofits this year.

The nonprofits, in turn, supply the food to families.

Three Methodist ministers founded the organization, following the Biblical injunction of Deuteronomy 24:19, which says: “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord God may bless you in all your undertakings.”

People of any faith can participate in St. Andrew Society gleanings. Since the North Carolina regional office opened in 1992, more than 429 million servings of food have been provided to residents of North Carolina and South Carolina, too.

The state offers 25 percent credit to farmers, said Jean Servideo of Green River Farm.

“Gleaning will reach deserving families instead of just our local fauna enjoying the late harvest drops,” Servideo said. “We will only be open one more week and would like to see as many picked as possible for this cause.”

In addition to blueberries, volunteers here have gleaned tomatoes, mustard greens, cucumbers, apples and scuppernongs, Montgomery said.

“A few blueberries, scuppernongs or apples might be nibbled by volunteers, but 99 percent of the produce goes to people who need fresh produce and have no way to afford purchasing it,” Montgomery said.

The blueberry gleaning at Green River Farm Millspring will occur on Aug. 1-3, Montgomery said. Volunteers sign a waiver, so there’s no liability on the part of the property owner, he said.

“We’ve had fewer opportunities this year due to the massive rain, but the blueberries seem to thrive,” he said.

Montgomery also coordinated volunteers to participate in the Society of St. Andrew Gleaning Network Potato Drop. In that event, the government dumps more than 40 tons of potatoes in a long pile, and pick-up trucks from many counties drive up.

Volunteers fill grocery bags with potatoes, put them in the trucks, and drive them to local food banks.

Anyone interested in participating in gleaning can contact Montgomery at 828-625-0675 to get on the email notification list.