The Lincoln County Gleaners group had a banner first year by gleaning and distributing almost 6,000 pounds of fresh, local food from five local farms, and it is looking to recruit more volunteers for the coming season.
Formed in 2017 by several community agencies, including Healthy Lincoln County, Morris Farm, FARMS, Help Yourself Shelf, and the Damariscotta Baptist Church, Lincoln County Gleaners’ mission is to get fresh, locally grown, free fruits and vegetables to convenient sites around local communities for those who otherwise may not have access to them.
The group was fortunate to glean produce from five local farms, including Brown’s Farm, Spear’s Farm, Morning Dew Farm, White Oak Farm, and Biscay Orchard.
“The gleaners pooled their knowledge and connections to seek out local farmers who would be interested in having us glean on their farm. We started contacting farmers who are close to Damariscotta and started working our way out into other towns. We have received nothing but support and enthusiasm, and look forward to adding more farms to be able to glean weekly or biweekly,” said Leslie Wicks, of FARMS.
Brady Hatch, of Morning Dew Farm in Newcastle, noted there is a benefit to the farms as well. “While we send produce to the local pantry each week, the gleaners bridge an important gap by providing a valuable community resource. They play a key role in making surplus product in the field available to the food-insecure,” she said.
The project’s successful first year can be attributed to committed volunteers, willing and generous farms, and collaborative community partnerships. Volunteers worked in a variety of roles, including harvesting the food, getting the word out, identifying places to receive the food, and helping to distribute the food to those places. At the heart of the project is the 5,894 pounds of local fruits and vegetables that were gleaned and distributed. These included lettuces, peppers, tomatoes, green beans, cilantro, cucumbers, carrots, corn, kale, squashes, and apples.
In preparation for the 2018 season, the Lincoln County Gleaners group is hosting an informational session for people interested in volunteering. This recruitment and training night will be on Thursday, April 26 from 6-7 p.m. at Morris Farm in Wiscasset. Snacks will be provided.
“Farm gleaning is such a simple way to get gorgeous locally grown food out there for all folks who live in our communities. There’s a lot to do behind the scenes, but with a committed team of volunteers, local agencies, and farmers working side by side, all our neighbors can take one more step toward living healthier lives,” said Lara Cogar, SNAP-Ed nutrition educator with Healthy Lincoln County.
The gleaned food was distributed to many sites across Lincoln County, including Bristol Area Library, Damariscotta Baptist Church, Louis Doe Home Center, the Wiscasset Community Center, Deer Ridge Farm Apartments, Bay Landing Apartments, Hodgdon Green, Medomak Valley High School, the Wiscasset schools, Whitefield Elementary School, Nobleboro Central School, Lincoln Medical Partners, the Newcastle and Waldoboro Head Starts, Help Yourself Shelf, and Newcastle, Jefferson, and Boothbay food pantries.
In addition to the above-mentioned partners, the Lincoln County Gleaners group also received support from several organizations, including Twin Villages Foodbank Farm, the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program, the Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Rising Tide Community Market, and the Merrymeeting Gleaners.
To learn more about the Lincoln County Gleaners, follow the group’s Facebook page, LCGleanersME, or email email@example.com.