Get Involved: Gleaning in Central Arkansas

Gleaners from the Society of St. Andrew pick green beans at Marker Miller Orchards Farm Market in VA. LInda Ash/Daily

Gleaners from the Society of St. Andrew pick green beans at Marker Miller Orchards Farm Market in VA. LInda Ash/Daily

A few weeks ago we posted about opportunities for gleaning for foodbanks in central Arkansas.  After an initial meeting, small-scale growers and volunteers are coming together to organize a network to produce and harvest locally-grown food for area foodbanks.  In most cases gleaning is something down on large-scale farms. But it can be done on small-scale farms as well, including neighborhood community gardens like we see popping up all over Arkansas. Even backyard gardeners can sometimes grow enough to give to area food banks, as we discussed in a recent McElroy House piece exploring the intergenerational gardening of Whitney Wills and Bryan Mader. 

To make this successful, and to work in solidity with food insecure communities throughout central Arkansas, your help is needed.  

Are you, or have you been, in a food insecure situation? Do you work with food insecure families? Are you interested in food security and want to learn more about local growing? Would you like a chance to visit with area growers and spend time in area urban farms working alongside other community members?  Read on to learn how you can help this movement work.

Arkansas ranks third in the nation for instances of food insecurity. This is especially a problem in low-income households with young children and elderly. At the same time Arkansas faces a growing poverty problem, Little Rock is quickly becoming a city of community gardens, with vacant lots and ample land to provide food for everyone. With adequate organization, interest, and ingenuity we can address local needs with local resources and bring people together to work toward sustainable solutions that address root causes.

Josh Hardin of Laughing Stock Farms is working with the Society of St. Andrew, a gleaning organization helping get homegrown, local food to people who desperately need it. Gleaning is an ancient tradition outlined in numerous religious texts, and it’s also a very practical step in addressing larger issues of poverty and social injustice in communities. Gleaning keeps thousands of pounds of food from rotting on the vine, addressing local needs with local solutions. What’s more, gleaning is a model that has the potential to move beyond charity to community solidarity. (click here to read a previous post about the history of gleaning)

Hardin is organizing small-scale growers in the area to dedicate a portion of their crops for donation to food banks and related programs. To make this successful there needs to be ample volunteer labor to help during various harvest times and people to work in solidarity with food insecure families. Because harvest time can come quickly, there needs to be countless volunteers on hand to make this work.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Sign up to be part of the volunteer gleaning network. When harvests are ready, volunteers will be given a day or more’s notice to show up an specified gardens in the Little Rock area to help with harvest. No farm experienced is needed. Part of the learning experience will be the opportunity to gain more exposure to the ins and outs of harvesting local crops.It’s a great way to get closer to the soil and learn from seasoned farmers.
  • Tell anyone and everyone who might be interested. The more volunteers on call the more likely there will be enough folks available when harvest times arise. Help organize your fiends, church groups, school clubs, relatives. Don’t just sign yourself up. Recruit others as well and explain the importance of this program to others. When harvests days come, help mobilize the people you’ve recruited.
  • Offer to drive and/or pick up others who are willing to glean. Got some extra seats in your car? Help get more people to the harvest sites by volunteering to pick up those who need transportation and make new friends along the way. To build a stronger community we need to get to know each other and this is a great way to get started.

Contact Josh Hardin at gleanark@endhunger.org.