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.