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.

Bounty

Monday, June 16th was a super day for the Gold Country Gleaners! It was the first Monday after the “official” Farmer’s Market Season in Nevada County. I have to use the term “official” loosely because, here in Nevada County, we have a Grower’s Market, a Downtown Market, and a bunch of other markets throughout the year, but the season really gets started after Memorial Day, when the Nevada City Farmer’s Market starts.

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The Gold Country Gleaners have been working with Mountain Bounty Farm for the past three years to bring fresh, organic produce to the hungry in Nevada County.

Mountain Bounty is locally famous for their “CSA” boxes, or Community Supported Agriculture boxes, a locally-based economic model that delivers fruits and vegetables (and sometimes flowers) to local people for an initial investment in the farm itself. For example, with Mountain Bounty, in addition to fruits and vegetables, you can pay $198 for 18 weeks of fresh flower bouquets. Mountain Bounty is one of the few farms locally that provides a Winter Vegetable CSA in addition to a Summer Vegetable CSA. Both boxes are amazing. For more information, please go to http://mountainbountyfarm.com/

For the past three years, during the farmer’s market season, Mountain Bounty Farm has donated their leftovers that they can’t sell at the farmer’s market to the Gold Country Gleaners on Monday morning.

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I got a call from John Tecklin, the owner of Mountain Bounty Farm, just before my Monday morning trip out to the farm. There was an air of dilemma in his voice. He said to me, “Hey. I think you might need a pick-up truck.”

“Uh-oh. Is there that much stuff?” I grinned. It was a blessing that I was prepared to deal with.

“There is a lot of produce.” He replied.

On Monday morning, I packed my 4-door Honda CRV from front to back and floor to ceiling with boxes of veggies. I put a blanket on the floor of my car and piled carrots and beets on top.

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There are several organizations in Nevada County that help to feed the hungry. There is the Nevada County Food Bank, the Interfaith Food Ministry, Sierra Roots, Women of Worth, The Salvation Army, and The San Juan Ridge Family Resource Center, just to name a few. The Gold Country Gleaners has donated to them all and continues to provide fresh, healthy, local produce to those in need in Nevada County.

I made five stops in Nevada County on June 16th, bringing produce to food pantries and local organizations. I received smiles where ever I went.

The Gold Country Gleaners are forever grateful to our donors. More often than not, farmers and gardeners just don’t have the time to deal with extra produce. The Gleaners have organized the people-power to pick-up food and deliver it. We have folks who go out to farms and pick the food on site. We have equipment and orchard ladders to pick fruit. We even have volunteers who have helped to prune trees in the fall and winter.

Our hats are off to John Tecklin and Mountain Bounty Farm for their continued commitment to helping feed Nevada County. If you have a farm or garden with extra fruits and veggies, we would be happy to assist you in getting those extras to our community members in need. Give us a call or email us. Thanks!

Hilary Hodge for the Gold Country Gleaners