Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Apple Story

October 17th, 36 volunteers gleaned at Johnston's Orchard.

We got 5,235lbs of apples from Johnston's...

...and 150L of Cider from Joe Tracy's community cider pressing.
Joe Tracy's apples go from his truck into a bleach solution;
a mechanized grinder pulverizes the apples;
buckets of apple mix getting dumped into the cider press...
(Joe Tracy's custom made cider press)
...and finally "the twist" produces the juice.
Stay tuned for plans to grow this five year tradition of apple gleaning and processing into an event for the community at large in 2015. The more apple varieties the better the cider, and certainly meal sites can best be served with a healthy drink already made than too many apples in their limited storage.

This year we distributed 5,000lbs of apples to pantries and 60L of cider to meal sites. 
Thank you gleaners and community members for making this possible.

Happy Holidays to all, see you in 2015!

Hannah & The Gleaning Team

Monday, October 20, 2014

Making History: Gleaning for Community Development

The U.S. Department of Economic and Community Development says:

"CONGRATULATIONS to the State of Maine Department of Economic and Community Development for being awarded the 2014 COSCDA Sterling Achievement Award for Community Development for the Hancock County Gleaning Initiative" (DECD).

The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development sponsored the Community Development Block Grant that enabled Healthy Acadia and UMaine Cooperative Extension to launch the Gleaning Initiative in 2012. The award was presented at the Annual Training Conference at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, and was bestowed during the Presidential Reception and Award Recognition Ceremony on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at the Boston Public Library. It was a small and beautiful event.

This might be the first time that gleaning efforts have been officially recognized nationally as an award-winning strategy for community development. However, gleaning has been on the national agenda before. Dan Glickman served as the United States Secretary of Agriculture from 1995 to 2001. Under the Clinton Administration, Glickman promoted Gleaning and Food Recovery by organizing conferences, passing The Good Samaritan Food Donations Act, and building a national network of gleaning organizations. We could probably trace a relationship between these national efforts and the success of Maine's Good Shepherd Food Bank food redistribution programs, as well as claim that the University of Maine Cooperative Extension put gleaning on their agenda as a product of these efforts. 

Should gleaning be national policy for hunger relief? If stripped of all its community-building, educational, and other value-added aspects, is gleaning, strictly economically speaking, worthwhile? (or sustainable?)
Some of the other gleaning organizations in New England such as the Boston Area Gleaners calculate the input-output ratio for each of their gleaning opportunities to decide whether or not to make the investment. There are overhead, gas, wear and tear on vehicles, time and effort, sorting and distribution costs, as well as a myriad of transaction costs to consider for gleaning opportunity; are those costs off-set by the pounds of food going to hungry people? Are we using speculative market prices to define value here?

Strategic management theory, based on economic decisions about the worth of any given gleaning opportunity, is one angle from which to consider the return on investment of gleaning. But in terms of what each gleaning opportunity produces, to put it in economic terms, there is a social and environmental return on investment (SROI and EROI) that needs to be measured first. I would even put my neck out to say that there is an emotional return on investment when the hopeful nature of gleaning raises the spirits of local farmers, pantry volunteers, non-profit organizers, policy makers, and the families of those who bring home fresh vegetables gleaned especially for them and/or by them, at the end of the day. 

I believe gleaning can make it back onto the national agenda, not only as a food waste prevention effort but also as a recognized award-winning community development strategy that puts the social, environmental and economic return on investment on an equal playing field.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Pig Idea

This is not my big idea, by the way. But what are we, if not mosaics of stolen pieces of other people's brilliance and inspiration? Tristram Stuart, a professional gleaner in the UK was horrified at an early age by the amount of food waste in his school cafeteria, and began feeding the food scraps to his pigs, and feeding his community some of the often overlooked, but still delicious pig-parts. He is now a famous gleaner responsible for the many “Feeding the 5000” events that have taken place around the world.

One local version of this same brilliance comes in the form of Chris Brown of Brown Family Farm in Bar Harbor. Chris has been gleaning from Hannaford Supermarket to feed his pigs and support a Community Meal, which he organizes every Thursday from 3-6pm at the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Bar Harbor. Another pioneer is Stewart White of White's Farm in Monroe, who until recently would pick up school food waste to take back to the farm, taking his piglets along for the ride for the kids to experience. Unfortunately, Stewart is too worried about what is being fed to the kids to actually feed the scraps to his pigs; he also gets no return from this activity. However, virtually anyone who has pigs and birds at a non-commercial level is doing some form of gleaning: that is repurposing food in quality appropriate ways. In order to ensure quality and to support the many decentralized gleaning systems that are developing throughout Downeast Maine, the Gleaning Initiative is developing a Community-Based Gleaning Guide to meet the needs of partners in all food sectors across the region.

For the sake of context, we are in the second chapter of the Gleaning Initiative's Exploratory Phase. The first chapter was a time for networking, outreach, community-building, and on-farm gleaning. This second chapter adds in farmers’ market gleaning, restaurant food waste prevention, retail-to-pantry, on-farm resource-based consulting, surplus management, marketing, and transportation. We are expanding to Washington County, and we have also just recently added our first official processing experiment. 

Deborah Evans of Bagaduce Farm is an incredible community player. From the beginning, she has bought in to the gleaning idea, and we have had many a conversation about how to include different versions of The Pig Idea. We worked with David's Folly Farm to raise money for two pigs for the Tree of Life, thanks to the Aragosta at the Barn event for which Deborah donated a pig (see June post in A Girl's Got to Glean). We have had informal gatherings to taste headcheese and pick the pig heads to make pork tacos. We have grilled pig tails and eaten them ¨like popsicles¨, by suggestion of Aragosta Sous Chef Susannah Taylor. Most recently, led by Deborah Evans, we had our first official processing workshop and made a Danish pig liver pate at the Halcyon Grange in North Blue Hill, for which we had seven participants from the ages of 6 to 65. 

To follow the recipe see:

As we continue to think about the many creative ways in which we can rescue and repurpose food that is otherwise going to waste, the question arose of whether we could use frozen pig liver to make pate. Interestingly enough, people who were connected to one of the seven volunteers who joined the workshop at the Halcyon Grange loved it. Others to whom the product was presented to without context, maybe not so much. Some wise palates say that frozen pork liver is not ideal, or that purely pork liver pate is in fact liver pasté, generally accepted as a Northern European traditional food that would be a very different taste for many of those raised on an American diet. Is this something worth putting a lot of energy into? What are the health benefits of eating liver? Maybe we can do it again and have a tasting of the different variations of the recipe and decide next steps. I can just see Bagaduce Farm celebrating the 10th Annual Pork Pate Pop-Up Party in Blue Hill Maine. 

Imagine... got liver?


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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Aragosta at The Barn

When the moments that move us become memories, we become transformed. It is on the backbone of these shared narratives that we then imagine our life stories into being. The magic of the experience of Aragosta at The Barn at David’s Folly Farm has been for a month now carefully wrapped up in my back pocket. Spring has flung us all forward with a wave of her wand and busy activity has inundated our lives. The story of Aragosta at the Barn still resonates.

The $4,750 collected from this event was only a small part of what was raised throughout the night. For one, there was an encore of raised glasses and cheering, filled by Montroig Cava from the Blue Hill Wineshop, infusing renewed hope and high spirits into the food security initiatives of the Blue Hill region. Our community of non-profits and community members became intricately linked to the issues of food insecurity, as our palates shared in the bountiful culinary genius of Chef Devin Finigan of Aragosta and her amazing team. Living the contradiction of the experience of bounty as it relates to hunger was perhaps the most thought provoking aspect of this dinner experience.

The Tree of Life Food Pantry, Healthy Peninsula, Healthy Acadia, and UMaine Cooperative Extension all collaborated in the organization of the event, and the Gleaning Initiative (a program of Healthy Acadia in partnership with UMaine Cooperative Extension) took on a lead coordinating role together with Tree of Life. But it was through Aragosta’s deep connection to local food providers and Devin’s role as board member of the Island Culinary and Ecological Center (ICEC) that we were able to inspire such generous donations, and bring such a wonderful crowd together.

As we backtrack through the story of Aragosta at the Barn, it is precisely The Barn at David’s Folly Farm that I would like to thank the most. John and Emma’s vision of wanting more of their locally raised animals in the food pantry, and their commitment to filling more local people’s freezers with good sources of local protein, had Rick Traub of Tree of Life, and myself, a gleaner and pantry board member, convinced from day one. The Pantry's Pig Idea brings up an important question that our community of farmers, butchers, processors, teachers, chefs, representatives, community members, volunteers, folks in need, summer residents, fisherwomen, pastors, store owners, service providers must come together around, to find a way, or many ways, to make local food economies thrive again, and again, and again, for years to come?

Of course the vegetables of the Magic Food Bus and the Double Your Benefits Program at the Blue Hill Farmer's Market are not forgotten, but isn't it time we went whole hog!?

A special thank you to William Altman for all the photos that are shared here, and last but not least a very special thank you to Eric Horschak for the bountiful music played during the event.