Monday, November 23, 2015

Clean Girls & Dirty Carrots, by Catherine Nichols, Somerset Public Health

"As a brand new AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) working for the Anti-Hunger Opportunity Corps at Somerset Public Health I was excited to start working towards an increase in food security for Somerset County. My supervisor was really excited for me to create a volunteer gleaning program for the county, but there were two problems…
Carrot gleaning at Kate Mrozicki's Morgan Bay Farm
I had never heard of “gleaning” before I started this position and had I never stepped foot onto a farm. As I was doing some research trying to find other gleaning programs in Maine, I came across Healthy Acadia’s Gleaning Initiative and I saw they had a full-time Gleaning Coordinator. “Great!” I thought. “I’ll reach out to her and learn what works!”
Hannah Semler and I decided to meet up and talk about gleaning. First we were going to meet in Skowhegan, and then maybe we could meet in Augusta, until finally we decided to meet in Blue Hill. She called me the night before and said “there are some carrots we can glean tomorrow!” I was going to get my hands dirty? As soon as we met up in Blue Hill she received a call to pick up some Jerusalem artichokes and she explained that this is how gleaning goes… it’s sporadic and you never know when you’ll get a call to either pick up food that has already been harvested or to spend some time at a farm collecting the food yourself.

Now, as an AmeriCorps member I’m based in an office where dressing in business casual attire is expected. Picture this: a girl who has never been on a farm digging carrots out of the ground in her khaki work pants… it’s a good thing I thought to bring along my trusty L.L. Bean boots! My office shoes would not have fared well in the moist soil we spent two hours in that day. I will admit, I had never gotten my hands dirty prior to my first gleaning experience and yes, I jumped when I came across the first creepy crawler.
In a couple hours the two of us gleaned 260 pounds of carrots at the Morgan Bay Farm which is equivalent to 1,820 servings of vegetables. When you break those numbers down again, we gleaned enough for 455 families (of four) to get one of their daily servings of vegetables! WOW. Hannah let me take a 50 pound bag of carrots to a food cupboard in Somerset County, and the crew at the People Who Care Food Cupboard in Madison were incredibly grateful for the donation.
Catherine Nichols on left, pantry volunteers on right.
A huge “thank you” to Hannah for showing me the ropes! Now that I’ve gotten a little taste of what it’s like, I can’t wait to set up a gleaning program in Somerset County!"
World War Two - How to store carrots?
Beets and carrots should be gathered before hard frost in the Fall, the tops cut off and the roots packed away in sand in a warm cellar. A good method of preserving Beets and Carrots fresh through the Winter is, to lay them in a circular form on the bottom of the cellar, with the roots in the centre and heads outward; cover the first course of roots with sand; then lay another course upon them, and cover with sand as before, and so on until all are packed and covered. The sand for Carrots should be very dry or they will rot; for Beets it may be moist, but not wet. Celery is preserved in the same way. Onions and Turnips keep well on scaffolds, or in barrels, in a dry cool cellar. (The Gardener's Manual, 1843)

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