Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Non-Stop Link to Gleaning

Alex has made it to Maine and says she already feels at home. Alejandra, as she is known in Spain, is my first volunteer recruit. She broke my teeth when we were six years old, so I figure she owes me. No hard feelings though, it is the bond of that story which has perhaps made us lifelong friends. She will be studying vegetable farming with Barbara and Eliot at Four Season Farm, and occasionally working to support the Gleaning Initiative. Alex contributed the photos for this blog entry.

Alex learns another form of gleaning - a sea-run brookie!
Alex and I began our gleaning rounds on Friday morning at the Local Food Exchange in Blue Hill. Vendors were defiantly dancing out of rhythm to the sheets of pouring rain pounding their tarps into submission. Bill was at the Tinder Hearth stand. We got some warm hugs, some exquisite mixed greens and a loaf of tender heart bread. Ducking quickly into the next stand to get out of the rain, we found ourselves at the Bagaduce Farm with owner Deborah Evans.

Introducing ourselves as gleaners got more than the usual eye-brow raise from Deborah. Turns out she had 47.48 lbs of locally made organic sausage up for gleaning! A processing mistake in the grinding had turned 40 packages of top-quality sausage into a less than marketable item. Deborah couldn't bring herself to sell to her customers something they would regard as being different than usual. She had experienced them oozing onto the pan as she tried to cook them herself, and had sort of given up. She had been meaning to stop by Simmering Pot in Blue Hill to drop her beautiful product off, but it seems she had been waiting for a gleaner's nudge to actually part with the fruits of her hard work.

We made a plan with Deborah. I was to pick up a cooler at the Blue Hill Farmers’ Market on my way to MDI the next day, drop off at Common Good Cafe in Southwest Harbor on Saturday and get the rest to Simmering Pot by Monday.

Blue Hill Farmer's Market at Fair Grounds (Saturdays 9-11)
Laurie from Common Good Cafe had called to tell me she was interested in the black bean soup from Panera that The Tree of Life had over-ordered a few weeks ago. The packaging size turned out to be too big for pantry customers (8lbs per bag) to take home with them, so the Gleaning Initiative reached out to the different meal sites nearby.

The Common Good Cafe is currently serving popovers to fundraise and stock up with food for the winter soup distribution program. They make nutritious soups from all the great products available in summer, freeze them, and then redistribute them to people who don't have a steady source of food during winter. I mentioned to Laurie over the phone that sausages had just become available, and asked whether she had the space to store 30 lbs of organic pork sausage. Laurie readily accepted.

We dropped off frozen soup and sausages at 11am at the Common Good Cafe.

I touched every single package as quality control to make sure that frozen packages went to Common Good Cafe, and slightly thawed packages were kept for Simmering Pot's Monday community meals. The Common Good was not planning on using the sausages until late summer, when they prepare meals for the winter, so the sausages could not be thawed and then refrozen.

When we spoke to Paula Mrozicki, at the Simmering Pot, she said they would have rather had the sausages frozen. Because the meal was already being planned by the Blue Hill Hospital they would not have found a use for the sausages until the following week. We suggested coming down on Monday morning at 10am to cook the 15 lbs of sausage into a spicy pork meat and tomato bolognese sauce that could be frozen and used over the course of coming months.

After leaving the sauce to cool for five hours, we went back to fill five 1/2 gallon containers with the sausage bolognese sauce. Not only is the Simmering Pot freezer now stocked for the season with a delicious sauce, food and people, farms and meal sites, and the Gleaning Intitiative itself, have made new lasting linkages within the community that directly confront food insecurity.

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