Gleaning as Community Support + Strategy

| Community, Community Projects, Farming, Forest Gardening, Permaculture | comments | Author :

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The act of gleaning – taking the leftovers of a crop from the field, once the harvesters had been through – is an age old tradition.

In times gone by in some agricultural societies, it has been an enshrined right – that after the harvest, what is left may be taken by anyone who needs it.

Its a great way to minimise waste, and to get more food to more people, rather than have it rot on the ground because the process of collecting every last piece of the harvest is sometimes too much for a farm.

Though modern harvesting equipment for many crops now leaves little, if anything, behind, there’s still plenty of crops that need to be hand-picked. And once the best is harvested, the rest is gleanings.

Recently, the folks at Yarrawah Estate in Kangaroo Valley invited Greenbox, our local food co-op, to help themselves to the remains of the macadamia nut + citrus harvests. So we did.

The plan was to harvest whatever was left, and to take it to our local Kiama farmers market to sell as a fundraiser for the co-op. And any harvest that was left from that, would go to a local food bank.

Fresh macadamias, local mandarins, oranges and grapefruit. Whole, juiced or granita-ed. Yum.

In times gone by (and in current times, depending on where you live), gleaning the fields was an important part of any village economy – it’s considered by some to be one of the first forms of social support.

I have more than I need, you have less than you need. And now, we both are fed.

Modern gleaning, of course, encompasses things like food rescue, food banks and dumpster diving – but it’s still the same thing in essence.

I have more than I need, you have less than you need. And now, we both are fed.

For my little family, this gleaning day was a chance to talk about our food system, and how leftovers can and should be used for maximum good.

Yet another example of the fact that, if we fully use and steward the resources around us, more people will be better off. And the planet will be, too.

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Big thanks to Yarrawah Estate, to Greenbox Co-op (you really should sign up if you’re anywhere near Kiama) and to The Hope Centre in Warrawong who took the plentiful leftovers of the produce (and which is also a new pickup point for Greenbox boxes).

Oh, and have you see that excellent and quirky documentary The Gleaners and I by Agnes Varda? If not, I invite you to check it out.


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4 responses to “Gleaning as Community Support + Strategy

  1. This newish movie about food waste gives a lot of examples of urban “gleaning”: Just Eat It – A Food Waste Story (

    I have friends who “glean” at conferences if there’s a lunch on the last day (taking home dozens of laid out bread rolls or desserts that would otherwise go to waste). They know just when to offer help in the kitchen at a reception (wedding or funeral): “Would you like us to take all these leftovers to a homeless shelter for your?” “Would you? That would be great. And keep some for yourselves, as well.” But their biggest score was at someone’s Valentine’s Day 60th birthday chocolate potluck party. They stayed until the end to help clean up and ended up with a year’s worth of chocolate treats in their freezer. All of this without any dumpster diving. Long live gleaning!

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