A New England farm struggled with spoiled crops this season, but it's sharing the few that were abundant
On a crisp autumn morning earlier this week, around 40 volunteers walked through crops of bountiful apple trees at Kimball Fruit Farms, located at the New Hampshire–Massachusetts border. They gathered to glean, which means picking up leftover produce to share with people in need.
Paula Moran handed them boxes, as she advised picking the fruit from the tree — and not from the ground.
Moran is part of the board of directors of United Way of Greater Nashua, which serves underprivileged families, seniors, children and immigrants. She especially loves when volunteers sign up for the gleaning season. She said manual labor keeps people grounded and humble.
“There are people who do this every single day for their livelihood,” she said. “If you come out and you volunteer one day a year, big deal, but at least it gives you an appreciation of how hard people work.”
David Wadleigh, owner of Kimball Fruit Farm, bought the property last year but has been working there since he was a teenager. Like many other New Englandfarms affected by climate change, his 150 acres also suffered from excessive rain and unpredicted frosts.
“But if you compare how [others] got affected by the really bad weather in western Massachusetts, Vermont and all along the Connecticut river, it looks like nothing happened here,” he said. “They were underwater.”
Wadleigh lost his peach crops, but he is thankful the elevation of his property has allowed him to have abundant heirloom tomatoes, romanesco cauliflower, squashes and apples.
Each year, hundreds of United Way of Greater Nashua volunteers sign up to help run community events, mentoring children or help seniors advocate for themselves. The fall season is special because it drives a new crowd of people looking to help their community but also enjoying the last few days of good weather before winter. This is the second year they organized to glean.
Niranjini Palnivlu works in a software company which gives its employees one day every quarter to volunteer. She gleaned a few boxes of apples and said it was fun to be outside for a good cause. (“Away from the computer and not stacked in a cubicle,” she said.) Palnivlu wasn’t familiar with gleaning; she learned a little about it while she drove to the farm.
Aline Bevacqua and her boyfriend Marc Ferry also used their driving time to learn about gleaning. While they scavenged the trees they found a big bird nest with a few egg shells on it. It took Ferry by surprise, as she looked at it closely in awe. She was thankful to be there that morning.
Across the country, food goes to waste in farms due to surplus, cancellations and produce that doesn't meet expectations. According to World WildLife, around 15% of the world’s wasted food happens at the farm stage.
Kathy Parker is a volunteer with New Hampshire Gleans, an organization that advocates for food waste reduction and guides other nonprofits and local farmers to join the movement. Last year, they collected 30,000 pounds of produce — which allowed thousands of people in the state to have fresh food on their plates.
Parker said when she was a kid she found a reproduction of The Gleaners, a painting from 1875 by French artist Jean-François Millet. In it, three rural women glean an austere wheat field in front of a bountiful harvest. The painting was not well received by the French upper class.
She never thought that image would have such a profound meaning in her life.
“I absolutely love the thought of saving some unwanted crops that can't be sold, because there's so much of it,” she says.
New Hampshire Gleaners calculated the volunteers gleaned around 8,000 pounds of apples. Those boxes will feed around 6,000 people in six Hillsborough soup kitchens and food pantries.