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Commissioner Scott Soares

Commissioner Scott Soares

Commissioner, Department of Agriculture Resources (DAR)

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Loading apples into truck2Never heard of “gleaning”? Not to worry – you’re not alone! When I tell folks about our new pilot Massachusetts Gleaning Network it’s not uncommon for people to ask, “What’s that?”

Gleaning is the act of harvesting leftover crops from farm fields and orchards that would otherwise not be harvested. Considering that these crops are quite literally the fruits of a farmer's labor, farmers are of course interested in finding opportunities for this food not to go to waste. Solution: Helping solve hunger!

The volunteers that help glean these crops provide an opportunity to move these crops from field-to- fork by harvesting and then delivering them to food pantries, food banks and other hunger relief organizations. USDA estimates about 96 billion pounds of pre-consumer food are wasted each year. With approximately 600,000 Massachusetts residents struggling to feed themselves, this is a wonderful way to recover some of this safe and nutritious food that would otherwise get thrown away.

Even though these crops are left behind, they are still fresh and good quality. There are all kinds of reasons why produce might not be marketable. Often it’s for cosmetic reasons, a blemish on an apple or a bruised squash. Sometimes the market price due has dropped below the harvest cost due to a high volume of a particular crop.

4H Club gleaners

On October 24, I joined Governor Patrick, EEA Secretary Sullivan and Congressman Jim McGovern and many enthusiastic volunteers from 4H, the Boston Area Gleaners, Project Bread and the Food Project at The Food Project Community Farm in Lincoln and the Tougas Family Farm in Northboro. Together we gleaned well over five bushels of carrots and 2,040 pounds of apples!

The Massachusetts Gleaning Network includes farms, volunteers, service agencies, food banks and other organizations – our role is to help them partner with one another in gleaning projects across our Commonwealth.

Gleaning is one of the most rewarding activities I’ve ever participated in and I hope you’ll join the effort.

For more information about the Massachusetts Gleaning Network contact Rose Arruda at 617.626.1849 or Rose.Arruda@state.ma.us.

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