Here To Help

The Gold Country Gleaners are here and happy to help.  Are your trees teeming with fruit?  Did you plant a few too many zucchini plants this year?  If you need fruit or vegetables picked for donation, we can send out a crew to glean your trees or yard.  If you would just like someone to pick up a few bags or boxes of produce, we will gladly get the food to those in need.  The Gold Country Gleaners are an all-volunteer organization getting left over fruits and veggies to those in need in Nevada County. We donate directly to service organizations like The Nevada County Food Bank, The Interfaith Food Ministry, Women of Worth, Divine Spark, Sierra Roots, and more! Last year we donated more than five tons of food to feed people in Nevada County.

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Volunteers

Many gleaning programs in the United States are run by organized offices, with a paid staff and infrastructure, usually funded by grants.  The Gold Country Gleaners is an organization run entirely by volunteers with no budget.

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When I attended the Northern California Regional Gleaners Conference in the spring and told the attendees that the Gold Country Gleaners is entirely run by volunteers, a lot of them stared at me in disbelief.

“How do you pay for your website?” Someone asked.

“One of our members pays the fee each year.” I said.

“How do you run your website and get content for the blog?  You don’t have a paid content writer?”

“A few web-savvy people help out.” I said.

“But how do you get people to pick the food?” Another person asked.

A lot of our volunteers come from the populations served by Nevada County’s food pantries and service organizations.  Some of our volunteers come from local faith-based organizations.  Many volunteers are willing to spend a day on the farm in order to share in the harvest.  Some volunteers are looking for a student project.  We have a couple of people who come out to pick bruised fruit and vegetables to supplement food for livestock.  Some people are looking to feed their families.

The Gold Country Gleaners split each harvest.  Our general policy is that the harvest gets split three ways: 1/3 goes to the property owner, 1/3 goes to the volunteers, and 1/3 goes to our local service organizations.  In truth, by the time a homeowner/farmer/gardener calls us, it is usually because they don’t want the rest of the vegetables or because the fruit falling is from their trees and they don’t want to see the branches break.  Generally, when the Gleaners go out to do a pick, we glean the fruit and vegetables, clean up the area where we pick, and divide the food between donations (great condition), volunteers (pretty good condition) and livestock (kinda ugly).  Usually, about 80% of the pick goes directly to those in need in Nevada County.

The Gold Country Gleaners have been active in Nevada County for five years and have run successfully with an all-volunteer model.  We are thankful to everyone who helps out.

The Kindness of our Hearts

So far in 2015, the Gold Country Gleaners have donated over 10,000 pounds of food to Nevada County’s service organizations.

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We are a non-profit organization that collects donations of produce.  We are run entirely by volunteers who work for a little bit of the produce picked, but who work mostly for the good feelings that come with feeding the hungry.  We have no paid employees.  We have no budget.  None of our volunteers have an official title.  When we drive out to a farm, we pay for our own gas.  We will pick up from any farm regionally located near Nevada County.   We donate produce to nearly 20 service organizations in Nevada County who feed the hungry, homeless, and impoverished.

So far this year, we have donated over 5 tons of food to feed Nevada County.

The Gold Country Gleaners and Mountain Bounty Farm: Teaming Up To Feed the Hungry in Nevada County

Last week, on Friday June 12th 2015, nearly 20 volunteers with the Gold Country Gleaners visited Mountain Bounty Farm on the San Juan Ridge to “glean” excess produce from Mountain Bounty’s certified organic vegetable fields. The Gleaners picked and packed vegetables to donate to several Western Nevada County organizations that feed the hungry. The Gold Country Gleaners are a sponsored non-profit, all-volunteer, service organization that pairs resources of excess food with people in need. On Friday, volunteers of all ages picked peas, radishes, broccoli, cabbage, garlic, and spinach. They packed the vegetables in boxes and brought them to the Nevada County Food Bank, the Interfaith Food Ministry in Grass Valley, and to Sierra Roots, one of the organizations in Nevada County that prepares meals for the hungry and homeless. In a single day, Mountain Bounty Farm and the Gold Country Gleaners were able to pack and deliver over 500 pounds of fresh vegetables to give to organizations that serve people in need.

From left to right,  Mariana Niblock, Ori Rutledge, Ameera Rutledge, Mable De Lyser, and Bella Niblock.

From left to right, Mariana Niblock, Ori Rutledge, Ameera Rutledge, Mable De Lyser, and Bella Niblock.

“Fresh, local produce isn’t easy to find for most community food distribution centers. Perishables can be very expensive,” said Gleaner’s Volunteer Coordinator, Hilary Hodge. “The Gold Country Gleaners are able to fill a lot of gaps for our local organizations. We provide fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season locally and we are able to provide the produce for free.” Because the produce frequently comes from registered farms and orchards, regulated distribution centers like the Food Bank are able to accept the donations and allocate the food to those in need. The Gold Country Gleaners donate to organizations that distribute food and also provide produce to organizations that prepare food to feed to the hungry.

Sierra Roots is one of the Gleaners regular distribution points in Nevada County. The volunteers at Sierra Roots prepare meals for the homeless on a weekly basis. “The people at Sierra Roots are so grateful for the fresh, organic vegetables and fruit that the Gold Country Gleaners provide to our organization,” says Susan Malloy of Sierra Roots. “This is our second season of serving nutritious meals to the homeless with their help. Every week is a surprise box of produce packed with various items. We can’t thank the Gold Country Gleaners enough for all they provide the community.” Because the Gleaners pick what is in season and what is available based on donations, the Gold Country Gleaners donate an incredible variety of produce.

Mountain Bounty Farm has been a long-time supporter and the single largest donor to the Gold Country Gleaners for the past five years. “We love it that the Gleaners are able to show up at our farm every Monday to gather our surplus,” says John Tecklin, owner of Mountain Bounty Farm. Tecklin and his farm are dedicated to the continued effort to ensure that Nevada County’s low-income families have access to fresh, local produce. Thanks to the generosity of its member-funded financial assistance program, Mountain Bounty has provided reduced-cost CSA boxes to 15 families this summer. Mountain Bounty will also soon be able to accept SNAP benefits for CSA signups, which will make their CSA boxes affordable to many more people.

Already this year Mounty Bounty and the Gold Country Gleaners have teamed up to donate nearly half a ton of food to those in need. “Farmers expect unexpected challenges,” says Mountain Bounty farmer Alex Kaplan. “We plant more than we need to make sure we’ll be able to supply our customers and CSA members with bountiful produce each week. We know that things happen. We can lose a crop to any number of challenges: unexpected weather, disease, and pests. However, if conditions are ideal, we have extra.” Kaplan adds, “It feels great to be able to contribute to our community in this way, and we couldn’t do it without the gleaners who so generously volunteer their time.” The Gold Country Gleaners are happy to take any reasonable donation, or tackle any gleaning project, large or small.

The Gold Country Gleaners’ organization has been in operation in Nevada County for the past five years and volunteers have donated several tons of food each year since the organization formed. Volunteers do everything from pick vegetables and fruit, to prune trees and arrange deliveries. The Gleaners get produce from local farms, orchards, individual homeowners, gardeners, community parks, state parks, and from anyone who chooses to donate. They can be reached at goldcountrygleaners@gmail.com or by phone at 530-264-8680. For more information about Mountain Bounty Farm, please visit http://www.mountainbountyfarm.com.

The 2015 Season Has Started

Nevada County’s “Gleaning Season” is upon us. It’s hard to believe. Most gardeners in Nevada County don’t start planting veggies until Mother’s Day. Many people in the Sierra Foothills use Mother’s Day as the quintessential benchmark to signal that it’s time to plant their gardens. Many people in Western Nevada County live at elevations still fearing frost this time of year. This year is different.

The Gold Country Gleaners don’t usually start getting calls until the first stone fruit, usually cherries, start to ripen. This year, after an unreasonably warm winter, we have heard from several people who felt inspired to start planting before the usual time, and who now have more chard, kale, and broccoli than they know what to do with.

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Don’t worry. We are happy to take it. We can come pick it up.

The “Gold Country Gleaners” is an all-volunteer charity organization that pairs unused produce with people in need. We work with farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, and even local grocery stores to distribute excess produce to local non-profit organizations that serve the needy. We have an on-going relationship with Nevada County’s Food Bank, the Interfaith Food Ministry, Women of Worth, Spirit Peer Empowerment Center, Sierra Roots, Hospitality House, Divine Spark, the North San Juan Family Resource Center, the Salvation Army, and more.

Our large list of donor organizations use the produce in order to distribute food to hungry families or use the produce in prepared meals to feed clients or the hungry populations they serve. We work with professional farmers, amateur farmers, small gardeners, large orchards, homesteaders, backyard warriors, and anyone who might have an excess of produce at any particular time.

Last year, we donated over five tons of locally-grown produce to local non-profit organizations. Mountain Bounty Farm was a rock star donor and, by-far, our largest donor last year and the year before. (Thank you Mountain Bounty! Support Mountain Bounty here.) More than 98% of farm donations to the Gold Country Gleaners go to directly support our donor organizations. The other two percent of farm donations go to volunteers and to organizations that help support the Gold Country Gleaners.

Chard

Chard

It’s not just farms that contribute. Many of our donations come from neighbors. Often donations come from someone who has a large fruit tree (or several trees) in their yard. We get a lot of calls for breaking branches. We are available to clean up a tree and make sure that the fruit gets distributed in an orderly fashion to several people in need. We also get a lot of calls for zucchini in the summer, which we are happy to take and find a home for.

If a gardener or homeowner needs help with a tree or garden, we are happy to help. We are happy to come out and pick. We offer the home-owner or donating business one third of the pick from the Gleaners free services. If you only need a few buckets of what you have produced, and you want to be able to donate the rest to worthy organizations, the Gold Country Gleaners can assist you by sending our volunteers to do the work for you.

Why do volunteers sign up with the Gleaners to fetch fruits and veggies? We keep our volunteers happy with fresh produce. Our volunteers sign up to pick because we allow them to keep a small fraction of the produce they pick. For people who love to put up jam, or freeze veggies, this organization creates a win-win situation.

The Gold Country Gleaners’ organization continues to serve Western Nevada County by pairing our local food resources with those in need of food. We distribute the local food that gets donated to local organizations that have systems in place, making sure that adequate distribution is received by all those in need.

If you would like to sign up to volunteer, or contact us to donate, please email us at goldcountrygleaners@gmail.com or call (530) 264-8680.

Inappropriate Vegetables

This is the time of year when all gardeners commit the same crime: we get busy and walk away from our gardens. I mean, come on. It’s summer, right? We did all that weeding in the spring and all that seeding and all that planting. We’ve been keeping an eye out all season. We have collected tomatoes and cucumbers and basil. We have brought in zucchini and eggplant on a regular basis. Some of us may have even made pickles or tomato sauce. It’s time for a break, right?

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Every time I leave my garden for any length of time, I come back to inappropriate vegetables. Every gardener knows what I’m talking about. It’s as if the vegetables have a sense of humor. Most of us find our inappropriate vegetables in the zucchini section of the garden. We leave for a few days and come back to a zucchini that is so huge it makes the kindest of women blush and the toughest of men turn their heads.

Here is what I found today. (The pencil is to show proportion.):

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But the carrots get in on it too:

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I have seen a number of inappropriate vegetables that bring a number of things to mind. But the truth is that, even though there are many vegetables in this world that are, (ahem), misshapen, they are still edible. And there are lots of people who go hungry. So even if some of your vegetables might be a little inappropriate, please remember that your local churches, soup kitchens, food banks and pantries are still happy to take them. (Even if you are hesitant to eat them.)

Sierra Roots: Food Integrity In Nevada County

The Gold Country Gleaners partner with several non-profit organizations throughout the year and with local food pantries in Nevada County to help strengthen food security in our community. Sierra Roots is just one of the many organizations that receive produce through the efforts of the Gleaners. Sierra Roots is an incredible organization and we would like to take the time to highlight their wonderful work.
On Thursday, July 24th, I went to the Sierra Roots weekly “picnic” out at Pioneer Park in Nevada City. Every Thursday at 11:30am, Sierra Roots hosts an event to feed the hungry in Nevada County. Anyone is welcome and they provide a meal that is organic and gluten-free, with several vegetarian and vegan options. They are careful to use separate dishes for meat and to make sure that there are options for people with allergies to soy, nuts or dairy. Sierra Roots is on the cutting edge of food distribution.

Volunteers (left to right) Jackie Wilson, Pauli Halstead, Kathy Waldron and Douglas Raglin

Volunteers (left to right) Jackie Wilson, Pauli Halstead, Kathy Waldron and Douglas Raglin

Sierra Roots is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to stay “dedicated to creating a strategic infrastructure that will offer sustainable solutions to local homelessness, while supporting our farmers, economy, and community.” At their food distribution event I had the pleasure to talk to a man named Rick. It was his first time receiving a meal from Sierra Roots. “This meal rocks!” He exclaimed enthusiastically. “I feel like I’m eating at the Briar Patch or Whole Foods,” he remarked, referring to grocery stores known for their selection of high-quality, fresh and organic products. Rick has lived in Nevada County for the past five years.

Prior to the meal on Thursday, I contacted Pauli Halstead, a volunteer with Sierra Roots, on the Monday before. I wanted to make sure that she had received the vegetables and the flat of strawberries that I had dropped off on her porch, a donation received through the Gold Country Gleaners. She explained that she would be using the vegetables to make a curry and that her next-door-neighbor, Kathy, would be helping with the strawberries and making a gluten-free, low-sugar shortcake. She explained that they would be using the fruits and vegetables to serve a complete meal to those in need.

Sierra Roots serves shortcakes to the hungry.

Sierra Roots serves shortcakes to the hungry.

When many people think of a “soup kitchen” or a place that feeds the hungry, often they envision a scene similar to the one from the 1968 film Oliver, where a lumpy, gray porridge is being served to orphans. When Sierra Roots started three years ago in Nevada County, the volunteers had an entirely different vision. They believed that healthy food fosters a healthy community. The organizers of Sierra Roots wanted to ensure that the population of those who are most in need in Nevada County could have access to, not just food, but to healthy and wholesome food.

Sierra Roots’ progressive and thoughtful approach to serving healthy food to those in need may be helping our community in more ways than one. In 2004, The American Society for Clinical Nutrition published a groundbreaking article about the correlations between poverty, obesity and malnutrition. The article explained that “many health disparities in the United States are linked to inequalities in education and income.” It provided evidence to support the fact that “the highest rates of obesity and malnutrition occur among population groups with the highest poverty rates.” The article linked studies about food insecurity, malnutrition and diets that are associated with lower food expenditures. It explained that, because foods that are high in fat and sugar often cost less than their more nutritious counterparts, they frequently become the choices of those requiring assistance for their food needs.

A lack of available nutrition for our most disenfranchised populations creates a negative feedback loop for local communities. When people don’t have access to healthy food for extended periods of time, they are often in need of other resources such as health care, mental health services, disability services and other services that could be reduced or mitigated by a healthful diet. Sierra Roots is helping to combat the myriad of problems associated with poverty and malnutrition. When a community commits to providing healthy food for those who most need it, the community benefits exponentially.

The Gold Country Gleaners will take any type of produce in any amount. We will take the largest zucchini and the smallest berry. We do not specifically seek out organic produce or a certain type of vegetable or fruit. We will take anything and everything because our food pantries and donation centers will take anything and everything. We are fortunate to live in a place where so many of our farmers and gardeners use organic and sustainable practices and we are thankful when we can serve those who have specific dietary constitutions.

The Gleaner’s relationship with Sierra Roots is new this year and seems to be a perfect fit. John Tecklin of Mountain Bounty Farm put Pauli Halstead and I in touch after she asked at the Farmer’s Market about receiving donations.

The Gold Country Gleaners have partnered with Mountain Bounty Farm for more than three years now. As the largest vegetable farm in Nevada County, Mountain Bounty was a prime candidate for a partnership with the Gleaners. The Gleaners have the volunteer base and the resources to make it convenient for a farm like Mountain Bounty to get their leftover produce out to local, reputable organizations feeding those in need. The Gold Country Gleaners have been awestruck by the generosity of John Tecklin, his family, his staff ,and his farm. Their contribution in the past years has been a steady and abundant resource for those in need in our community. The added bonus is that Mountain Bounty Farm is an organic farm. (For people who are looking for an incredible CSA in Nevada County with wonderful weekly produce, I cannot say enough good things about Mountain Bounty Farm. Please check them out at mountainbountyfarm.com.)

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Maybe we don’t think that those in need might also have a preference and a desire to adhere to certain dietary choices or restrictions. One of my most eye-opening moments with the Gold Country Gleaners involved one of the shelters we regularly work with. I was dropping off a donation of vegetables and the organizer at the shelter said to me, “You have no idea what a help this is right now. Almost all of our current residents are vegetarians.” Of course, it was completely ignorant of me, but it had never occurred to me that people needing food, might also have strict dietary guidelines to adhere to. The people we serve have dignity and they should be afforded every opportunity to hold fast to certain beliefs or nutritional standards. I’m thankful that the Gold Country Gleaners, and the organizations we partner with, are working to accomplish that.

Last Thursday, Sierra Roots served a meal with the help of the Gold Country Gleaners and our local farmers and gardeners. There were more than forty people who received food, including a handful of small children. I talked to several people in attendance. For many, this would be the only organic meal they would eat all week. For some, it was the only meal that included fresh fruits and vegetables in almost a month.

Bill Kerr, a board member for Sierra Roots, came to the Thursday meal to support the volunteers. “This work is important,” he said. “It is very important to a community of disenfranchised people.” He explained that, ultimately, Sierra Roots would like to have a co-operative farm that could provide a place for our homeless and at-risk population to live and work. Until then, Sierra Roots is feeding the hungry with a comprehensive, whole-foods approach to nutrition. Sierra Roots is serving delicious and nutritious meals and they are well received.

If you would like to learn more or volunteer with Sierra Roots, you can find more information at http://www.sierraroots.org