I’d never heard of gleaning until one of our neighbors wanted us to talk about this idea at our annual neighborhood meeting in order to gauge interest in it from the group. Turns out, there were plenty of projects people were interested in: farmer’s market opportunities for the P-Patch, a community chicken coop, and advocating for healthier food in the CD and helping people learn how to cook it. Food is fundamental to social justice.
From February on, we had small meetings to discuss how we were going to gather the fruit, who would get it, and what our goals would be. While always pleasant with wine and cheese, they were often contentious: would we give the fruit to local churches that barely participate in neighborhood life? Would we specifically try to get the food into the neediest in our neighborhood..and if so how would we decide who exactly that was? Should we take it all to a food bank or should we try to find smaller groups that could use it? Should we try to hire some at-risk youth to help pick? We had guest speakers, we had a neighborhood fruit walk, we sent out brochures, we gathered volunteer names.
We could have probably kept talking and drinking wine, but eventually, the fruit was ready without our issues completely solved. Where is the ladder? The first tree came like we heard it would, overripe and unexpected…and then for a month, it seemed that as many plums as we could pick were available.
All told, our band of volunteers picked over a ton of fruit that would have otherwise rotted on the ground. Over half of this fruit stayed right here in Colman, free to anyone who happened to walk by one of the boxes of fruit or given to some of the churches. The rest primarily went to our local food bank at St. Mary’s over on Jackson and 20th.
We picked from eleven different houses and in addition to the few types of plums found in our old Italian neighborhood, we also picked pears, grapes, and finally, quinces. Those quinces coming in late September brought a welcome relief to our efforts and were gathered in a pouring Autumn rain.
Fruit is a variable thing, so who knows what the harvest will be like next year. One thing that is for sure is that I am very much looking forward to gathering together with my neighbors up in the branches of a tree next summer.