WYE MILLS — The first “gleaning” of produce through the Farm to Table movement to be donated to the Maryland Food Bank took place Friday morning, May 28, with volunteers picking fresh strawberries at a one acre strawberry patch located at the Wye Research & Education Center in Wye Mills. This is the tenth year Farm to Table has donated to the Maryland Food Bank. Many local Eastern Shore farmers have been involved sharing fresh produce that otherwise would have gone to waste in the fields, but instead was “gleaned” by volunteers and made useful to feed hungry families across Maryland.

The word “glean” comes from a biblical history, talking about fields that had been essentially harvested of whatever produce had been grown, but, growers permitted needy folks to salvage whatever produce was left unharvested in the fields before it was wasted. Local Eastern Shore farmers have done the same, but, the “Farm to Table” portion of the Maryland Food Bank was created 10-years ago, allowing volunteers to glean produce and have it shipped directly to the Maryland Food Bank distribution center, located in south Baltimore.

Eastern Shore native Amy Cawley has been the coordinator in Maryland, working with farmers on both the Eastern Shore and in western Maryland. The amount of fresh produce gleaned and sent to the Maryland Food Bank has grown over the past decade, helping meet the growing need to feed hungry families in the state. This has been especially true during the pandemic.

From now until late October, early November, produce will be ready to glean, and volunteers are needed. Strawberries is one of the earliest crops that comes in season. Later; tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, potatoes, watermelons, sweet corn, pumpkins, and finally apples and pears will be donated by local farmers.

Cawley emails a network of volunteers the day and time when the gleanings will take place. Unfortunately, those volunteers know that they are like legendary old-time “minute men” of the Revolutionary War era. Not much notice is given, many times, just 24-hours, to meet at a particular farm location. As difficult as the timing is, Cawley has a dedicated group that usually turns out to help, However, the need for more volunteers is always there.

Wye Research & Education Center Horticulture Manager Chris Cochran said, “I will do everything I can to provide Amy with more notice, further in advance, to help promote people coming out to volunteer in the gleaning efforts”. That said, farming is not an activity you can put an exact date on for all crops, When produce is ready to be harvested, that’s when the work needs to be done! So, a week’s notice in advance, is considered a luxury.

If you or a group you are associated with, would be interested in volunteering in the gleaning efforts, contact Cawley at her email address: acawley@mdfoodbank.com or call her at 443-735-0757.

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