WYE MILLS — The “gleaning” of produce through the Farm to Food Bank movement to be donated to the Maryland Food Bank has kicked off with volunteers picking fresh strawberries at a one acre strawberry patch located at the Wye Research and Education Center in Wye Mills. This is the 10th year Farm to Food Bank has donated to the Maryland Food Bank. Many local Eastern Shore farmers have been involved sharing fresh produce that otherwise would have gone to waste in the fields, but instead was “gleaned” by volunteers and made useful to feed hungry families across Maryland.

The word “glean” comes from a biblical history, talking about fields that had been essentially harvested of whatever produce had been grown, but growers permitted needy folks to salvage whatever produce was left unharvested in the fields before it was wasted. Local Eastern Shore farmers have done the same, but, the Farm to Table or rather Farm to Food Bank portion of the Maryland Food Bank was created 10 years ago, allowing volunteers to glean produce and have it shipped directly to the distribution center, located in south Baltimore.

Amy Cawley has been the coordinator in Maryland, working with farmers on both the Eastern Shore and in western Maryland. The amount of fresh produce gleaned and sent to the Maryland Food Bank has grown over the past decade, helping meet the growing need to feed hungry families in the state. This has been especially true during the pandemic.

From now until late October, early November, produce will be ready to glean, and volunteers are needed. Strawberries is one of the earliest crops that comes in season. Later tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, potatoes, watermelons, sweet corn, pumpkins and finally apples and pears will be donated by local farmers.

Cawley emails a network of volunteers the day and time when the gleanings will take place. Unfortunately, those volunteers know that they are like legendary “Minute Men” of the Revolutionary War era. Not much notice is given, many times just 24 hours, to meet at a particular farm location. As difficult as the timing is, Cawley has a dedicated group that usually turns out to help. However, the need for more volunteers is always there.

Wye Research and Education Center Horticulture Manager Chris Cochran said, “I will do everything I can to provide Amy with more notice, further in advance, to help promote people coming out to volunteer in the gleaning efforts.”

That said, farming is not an activity you can put an exact date on for all crops. When produce is ready to be harvested, that’s when the work needs to be done. So, a week’s notice is considered a luxury.

If you or a group you are associated with, would be interested in volunteering in the gleaning efforts, contact Cawley by email, acawley@mdfoodbank.com, or call her at 443-735-0757.

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