My yard is tiny. I live in town in a cozy neighborhood where you could reach out and touch the next house if you were so inclined. In our front yard, planting space is minimal so my husband built us a raised garden bed that is all of 2’ wide by 8’ long. And I am constantly amazed by the bounty we get out of this miniscule garden. As fall sets in, our planter is bursting with Sungold cherry tomatoes, basil, tomatillos and squash. I am always surprised that, even with this tiny plot, I have plenty to share.
Fall is the season of abundant harvests, and this issue is filled with stories of how to share it. Whether you are pressing apples into cider like our county Sheriff, Tom Allman (pg. 25) or growing grain to feed our community like Doug Mosel (pg. 23), we have lots of examples of generosity.
If I ever feel overwhelmed by the bountiful harvest, the Willits area has an answer: the Grateful Gleaners. This group of volunteers is more than happy to come pick up the fruit or vegetables that would otherwise go to waste. Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ (or neighbors’) fields after they have been harvested or in some cases gathering fruits and vegetables that are not being harvested. The Grateful Gleaners have collected hundreds of pounds of fruits and vegetables over the years, and they are geared up for a busy season again this year. “We take what we gather and donate it to the Food Bank or Senior Center,” says Karen Gridley. “We have a great time, but our group of volunteers is getting up there in age. We need more young volunteers to climb up those orchard ladders,“ she laughs. Karen and her husband, Wolfgang Ronnefeldt, helped found the Grateful Gleaners, and they have had many adventures gathering food.
Many other groups around Mendocino County have similar groups of friends or neighbors that meet to harvest this time of year. It may be an apple pressing party in Anderson Valley or a tomato canning adventure at a friend’s house. Many hands really do make light work. So next time you notice that your zucchini are getting out of control, put out the call for someone with a spiralizer (nifty device that makes zucchini noodles), and everyone can leave the party with noodles to spare. Or invite friends to gather the apples from the trees out back. That fresh fruit can be donated to the food bank or dried for later use.
Even small garden spaces like mine make enough to go around. I’ve decided to share all these tomatoes from my tiny plot around my neighborhood. I noticed a friend who lives across the street has an abundance of plums. Maybe we can make a trade and share the bounty.
Holly Madrigal, Publisher
For more information on the Grateful Gleaners, call (707) 459-2101.
Image courtesy of Campovida.