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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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.

One Tree? No Problem!

On July 9th 2014, Nevada County’s local newspaper, The Union, published an article about the wonderful work that the Gold Country Gleaners are doing in Nevada County. One of our volunteers was quoted as saying that “there is no job too big or too small.” We really cannot stress this enough.

Last week we got a call from a woman named Alice. She said that she had one plum tree in her yard. “I’m 94 years old and I just don’t get on ladders any longer.” She asked if the Gold Country Gleaners would be interested in “just the one tree.”

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We sent out two volunteers the next afternoon. They came back with 38 pounds of plums for the Interfaith Food Ministry.

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Because we have volunteers who live and work in all corners of Nevada County, it is easy to get the right volunteers for the job. Our message: Don’t hesitate to ask!

City Mice

 

There are few things more beautiful than an organic farm in the first few days of summer. My nieces are visiting from the Bay Area and I had the privilege to take them to Mountain Bounty Farm this morning. They are 12- and 13-years-old and got up early today to volunteer their time with the Gold Country Gleaners.

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We got to Mountain Bounty Farm at 7:45am, just when the cool air had all but worn off. There were butterflies touching their noses to yellow flowers and bees bowing to bolted broccoli. It was breath-taking.

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My nieces are definitely “city mice” but they are not totally ignorant about country ways and where their food comes from. My nieces have spent enough time with us in the country, and have spent many days on local farms while visiting us here in Nevada County. They like the country and they love to visit farms. Today was no exception.

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The girls and I spent the morning picking vegetables with, Clif Mackinlay, another Gleaners volunteer. The owner of Mountain Bounty Farm, John Tecklin, and his skilled farm managers, are great at preparing the fields for succession planting so that the farm’s CSA and market customers always have the best of the best and a wide variety of veggies, lettuce and herbs. The fields were filled with a variety of greenery.

I laughed when the 12-year-old, Mariana, said today, “Auntie, this plant smells like pickles.” She was standing next to a wispy-leafed plant with big, yellow sprigs of flowers. She thought for a moment and asked, “Is this dill?”

It sure was. “Yep!” I said. “Nice plant identification!”

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Mountain Bounty Farm is in full swing right now but many of the cruciferous vegetables out at the farm are in their last days. For Mountain Bounty and their customers, they have had their fill of vegetables like cabbage and bok choy; they are now moving onto other varieties that are more in season.

Vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and bok choy grow better in the late winter and early spring up here in the Sierra Foothills. With summer upon us, things like cabbage and bok choy are starting to bolt. The CSA and market customers have delightfully gotten the cream of the crop (quite literally) but there were still some very nice cabbages and lots of bok choy left in the field. That’s where gleaning comes in.

The concept of gleaning dates back to before the Christian bible was written. In other parts of the world, gleaning has been a staple of consistent community service for centuries. In Nevada County, our most organized efforts have taken place in the past few years. Last year, we really took off. Last year alone, we donated more than five tons of food to local organizations. The Gold Country Gleaners have been called out to orchards, homesteads, farms and gardens to help with gathering and donating food.

I’m not sure how effective my nieces and I were in the field at Mountain Bounty today. I cut heads of cabbage away from the roots with my knife and tossed them to the girls who ran the cabbages back to boxes up the hill. I think we probably looked more like we were running a P.E. drill than like we were farming.

Pulling the bok choy and helping Clif with things like fennel and lettuce proved even more of a mess. As we tried to separate the plants from their strong roots, we found ourselves covered in dirt and often times holding leaves and stalks, rather than a whole bunch. Still, we worked hard and eventually came up with nearly twenty boxes of veggies to take to our local food pantries.

Clif Mackinlay had a much easier time than the three of us. He is a skilled harvester and is much more patient than a couple of teenaged-girls and their auntie. I watched him as he carefully harvested lettuce and a green, leafy vegetable related to bok choy. He had large stalks of fennel and several boxes filled with neatly picked greens.

We agreed that my nieces and I would go to the San Juan Ridge Family Resource Center to drop off some produce and then to the Interfaith Food Ministry in Grass Valley. Clif would go to the Salvation Army, Hospitality House, and then to the Nevada County Food bank.

Altogether, the Gold Country Gleaners donated about 50 boxes of food and several work-hours to help feed the hungry in Nevada County today. We served several non-profits and made sure that our food pantries were stocked.

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My nieces were happy to help and they had a great time. I’m glad that we all had a nice day out on the farm.

 

Food For Thought

 

I saw a man today in Grass Valley picking out food from the garbage. He was older, with short hair and bifocal glasses. He hadn’t shaved in a few days but his clothes looked clean and he had a hopeful smile on his face. He was rummaging through some yellowish broccoli placed in bags outside of the Interfaith Food Ministry, on its way to the dumpster. I was making a food delivery, a large donation of organic vegetables. The man passed me on his way back to his car. I handed him some carrots and beets.

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The Interfaith Food Ministry (IFM) is a United Way partner organization and just one of a handful of different food pantries in Nevada County. I’m not sure why the man decided to go through the garbage instead of waiting in line. Mondays are a distribution day for the IFM. Maybe he had already used their services and wasn’t yet eligible for another dispersion.

IFM is operated by volunteers and provides food to those in need. They are working to be able to give clients food on a weekly basis but, right now, they only have the resources to provide food every-other-week. Their website indicates that, “Everyone needs a little help now and then. IFM distributes nutritious food to individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet. We are open at our 440 Henderson Street, GV, location every [Monday, Wednesday and Friday] from 10 am – 1 pm. Each individual or family may receive community donated food one time every two weeks regardless of immigration status.”

The Gold Country Gleaners bring food to the Interfaith Food Ministry every Monday morning during the summer, and as often as possible in the off-season months. Our volunteers pick up organic vegetables from Mountain Bounty Farm and deliver it to several locations, including the IFM. When I got to their doors this morning, at about 9:50am, ten minutes before the doors opened for distribution, there was a line that stretched the entire length of the building and spilled out into the parking lot. There had to be at least 100 people waiting. That’s when I saw the man go through the garbage.

Last year, in an interview for a local newsletter, I said, “No one in Nevada County should have to go hungry. We are a place of kindness and abundance with many, many opportunities to grow and harvest food. With community support and helping hands, all of the food grown in Nevada County could be harvested. All of the food could be eaten. Everyone in our community should be fed.”

Shortly after delivering vegetables, on my drive home, I saw my neighbors in their garden working to pull weeds amongst chard and kale. From the street I could see their tall tomato vines and a few pepper plants. I’m a gardener myself and have been startled to see ripening tomatoes and peppers already this season.

In the heat of summer and with a thriving garden, it is easy to forget that there are people very much in need in our community. Even with the incredible efforts of our food pantries and our non-profit organizations who spend countless volunteer hours to try and help those in need, we still have people in our community who need help.

Next time you are in the grocery store, please drop something off in the many food bank collection bins at the front of the store. Even if it is just one extra thing. A little bit can go a long way.

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If you would like to get involved with the Gold Country Gleaners, either by picking or donating produce, please contact us. We would be happy to have you!

Hilary Hodge for the Gold Country Gleaners

 

Welcome to our new website!

The Gold Country Gleaners are dedicated to feeding the hungry in Nevada County.  We will pick extra fruit from your trees and vegetables from your garden and we will deliver it to local non-profit organizations dedicated to feeding the hungry in Nevada County.  We work with a number of local non-profits such as The Food Bank of Nevada County, the Interfaith Food Ministry, the Salvation Army, Women of Worth, and more!

We are in the process of updating our website.  Thank you so much for visiting us.  We are very much active and we are still taking donations and signing up volunteers.  If you would like more information about the Gold Country Gleaners please email us or call us at our local phone number.  Our information can be found in the Nevada County Grown leaflet.