Monday, November 15, 2010

New Partnerships

This past Friday instead of a typical harvest, the gleaners jumped into an enormous white suburban (perhaps the largest car many of us had ever ridden in) and made the short drive to the faculty neighborhood. It’s just a block off of the row, yet this beautiful neighborhood feels like a different world. We spent a good chunk of time driving from house to house, keeping our eyes peeled for fruit trees, of which there were many. When we spotted a tree, be it lemon, grape, pomegranate or one of many other varieties, Susannah would slow the monolithic vehicle to five and we would jump out, run to the door, and drop off a gleaning flyer (okay, we actually stopped the car, after all The Stanford Gleaning Project is filled with caring, committed people dedicated to safety).

About thirty minutes in, we pulled up to a big grey house at the end of a cul-de-sac. One of the gleaners, Tim, ran to the door to drop off a flyer. We waited for several minutes, but there was no sign of Tim. Fearing for his safety (as I said, dedication to safety!), we got out of our white tank to see what was going on. Suddenly Tim came running around the corner bearing good news: turns out that the elderly man at the door had a beautiful persimmon tree in the back garden that he wanted us to harvest right then. We went to grab our pickers when the man’s wife came out, wondering what exactly five students, a white suburban and two bright orange pickers were doing outside her house. After we explained what was going on, her face immediately softened. She explained that she and her husband were too old to pick their fruit and they had been waiting years for a group like us to come along. The persimmons were incredible beautiful and we harvested two full bags, one of which we left for our new 80-year old friends. We hope for many more such experiences!

After hitting several more streets, the day ended with the discovery of a large amount of “trash” on the curb. After talking with the kind gentleman who was putting out his unwanted items, we salvaged several planter boxes, bricks for a garden, and a lovely rolling wicker basket perfect for fruit transportation.

Though not a typical harvest, the day was rewarding in so many ways. We ventured into oft-forgotten part of the Stanford community and were rewarded a bag or persimmons, new friends, and, with luck, a new partnership for The Stanford Gleaning Project. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Helping Out

This past weekend on Saturday (5/22), three of the gleaners and two interested gleaner parents made the trek up to San Francisco to work at the Julian Food Pantry. There was more food than the gleaners have ever seen, including an incredible box of corn that allowed for eight ears to go to each individual. We brought approximately 80lbs of lemons and 5lbs of rosemary. Our suspicions were confirmed that the Asian population was none too excited about the herb, but the Hispanic, African-American and White populations were very appreciative. It was  reversed the time we brought bok choy, which most non-Asian people looked at as if it were poison. Something interesting we saw while working in the back was that there is a culture of trading food in the alley behind the church. It allows for people to have preferences, in a way a fair food bank does not. The food bank provides equity but it's nice that people can have more choice through this informal system.

After the pantry, we went to the free farm where the plants and the space have both increased in beauty and vitality. The space has enough human touch to comfort and the produce looks healthy and delicious. It's always nice to see progress, when that progress is for good.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Locations and New Friends

As we approached Kairos House we saw four people sitting under the lemon tree we were supposed to be gleaning. I was hoping it wasn't a rebirth of my freshman year, during which Kairos residents would sit on their lawn and heckle passers-by (what would they say to us, with our silly pickers??). It was not the heckle team, however, it was NEW GLEANERS, freshman from Page's class. The new comers gleaned the fist half of the harvest, while the veterans got to enjoy the beautiful afternoon. When the easy lemons were gone the vets jumped in and pulled down the rest of the 125lbs of fruit!

We will continue to jump around campus in the weeks to come, gleaning from several smaller sites than the larger groves we have taken advantage of in the beginning of the quarter.    

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The D.C. Central Kitchen

What do you do when a well-established not profit wants to throw money at you to start something that will benefit others? You discuss the logistics of running that project, and wonder whether Stanford is really the right fit...and perhaps jump for philanthropic joy.

Two top executives from the D.C. Central Kitchen presented to a lunch group at the Haas Center for Public Service on Friday April, 30th. They introduced two projects. The first, the central kitchen, uses food that would have been wasted and turns out 4,500 meals per week in the D.C. area. In addition, they provide job training and employment for disenfranchised individuals, thus feeding the hungry and eliminating some of that need in the process.

The second project, and the one that they wanted Stanford to adopt, is their campus kitchens model. A similar model of potential food waste instead being prepared provided to needy individuals, would be used. They were adamant that the Stanford name would benefit their organization enough to warrant a fully funded program. Currently, they have 26 participating schools, none of which are in California.

Stanford Glean is definitely interested in the program, there are many logistical problems, relating to Stanford's location and unique access to kitchens. There would certainly have to be extensive coordination if the project were going to use all of the resources Stanford has to give. Pick-ups would need to be done from dining services and the many co-ops and self-ops on campus. Given that there are many kitchens on campus, with super easy student access, perhaps a rotating schedule would ensure that the burden was spread evenly. In addition, it would give many people an easy chance to participate in the program and could recruit followers.

The gleaning project would have to decide if the fruits of its labors would continue to support the Free Farm and Julian pantry or if the material would be used in the campus kitchen project (alternately, of course, they could remain entirely separate). There is something to be said for people having responsibility for themselves and feeling good about that. The free farm stand and Julian allow for people in part to decide how they will prepare food and have some autonomy related to that preparation. In the case of the farm, there is a lot of learning in the community about farming and eating healthily. Although for those who are homeless, a hot meal might be more beneficial, the services we are currently providing are different and of value.

Perhaps by increasing our presence on campus we could contribute to both.

The last concern is who this kitchen project would feed. That would take more and complete research about feeding programs in the area, which has not yet been completed.

Let Stanford Glean know if you are interested in the Campus Kitchen Project!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Let it Shine!

After two miserable wet days, an oddity in California's April, the sun broke free for a beautiful Thursday glean. The going was a little slow outside of the post office, as many of the easily accessible oranges had been picked in previous gleans. With a little perseverance, however, we gleaned 114lbs of fruit!

Music made a second appearance and the octo-juicer made a first. We weren't lying when we labeled these oranges juicing oranges. We used casualties of gravity to make some delicious juice, such that nothing gleaned or knocked off went to waste. 

In total 7 gleaners attended and enjoyed an hour of fun. On route back to housing, we found a new tree outside of the Haas Center for Public Service and topped off an already weighty backpack.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Fantastic Fava Forest

Friday 4/23 was a fabulous sunny day. The gleaners set out to the Stanford Community farm, where all winter their harvest had been steadily growing. Steadily is a bit of an understatement actually. Last time the gleaners had looked the fava beans were decidedly growing, at this point they had turned into a massive forest. The mission was to clear the plot.

The co-founder and the redhead went to work! The first obstacle was the black moving insect matter at the tops of some of the plants. Judging by the ladybugs (and confirmed later by our advisors) they were aphids and we discarded the plants that had been overrun by them (organic farming, c'est la vie). Luckily most of the fava crop was untouched and we collected buckets of bean pods, some measuring between 8 and 10 inches. We were clearing the plots, so we pulled the plants up by their roots, or in some cases realized shovels would be necessary to extract the stump like stalks from the ground. One weird observation, the fava stalks that had grown sideways, through the other stalks, produced by far the largest bean pods.

The biggest surprise of the day was the perfect kale hidden among the fava stalks. We ended up with a couple of bunches, which I'm sure will make someone at the free farm very happy.

The two gleaners finished for the day, leaving a small chunk of forest for gleaner three to delight in upon her arrival. We are so excited for spring crop planting. We hope to put in tomatoes and beans!

Admit Weekend Gleaning

The gleaning faithful - the creators and the redhead - were joined by several students in front of the Post Office last Thursday 4/22. We had new comers and old friends. Many peopled honed their skills on our bright orange pickers (which look like over-grown entirely metal lacrosse sticks) while others reached up into the trees with eager hands.

We were still waiting for the pickers as hoards of prospective freshmen streamed through White Plaza. Luckily, Susannah met the group just before they disappeared up the row and was able to give a ringing endorsement of the Gleaning Project. Although I'm sure they won't forget us, I do wonder if they were aware that she was welcoming them, rather than attacking them with the pickers =) ProFros can be a little jumpy.

The gleaning was enhanced by an array of upbeat songs, and there was much rejoicing. Many people stopped by to see what we were doing and got a chance to try fruit that had split open. My favorite visitor was a Mom from Carmel, Indiana. She came up, wondering what we were doing, wearing her Stanford parent pin (her son will be part of the class of 2014). Beyond her questions though, I think what she really wanted was to taste an orange that she had seen attached to a tree moments before. I thought back to my first time in California wandering around the State capitol building in Sacramento, and how determined my Mother and I were to taste an orange from one of the trees. It was so novel and unexpected to see them growing like they were, instead of in grocery crates.

Altogether a fantastic glean. We shall have to wait for an official weight, but my gut tells me upwards of 80lbs is a good guess.

A History Lesson

The Stanford Gleaning Project was founded in the spring of 2009 by Stanford University freshmen, Caitlin and Susannah. The concept for the project came from a class taught by Page Chamberlain and Jim Sweeney called “Reducing your Carbon Footprint.” The Gleaners would collect produce on Stanford campus and donate to The Julian Food Pantry and The Free Farm Stand, both of San Francisco.

There is wealth of produce growing on Stanford campus – oranges, grapefruits, kumquats, lemons, limes, mandarins, Buddha’s hands, tangerines, loquats, avocados, and plums – which goes un-harvested and relatively unnoticed by throngs of students each year.

The first task of the Gleaning Project was to identify the trees on campus which produced fruit. Susannah and Caitlin created a nifty GPS map of the trees available online: Along with charting student areas of campus, the gleaners ventured into the faculty neighborhood and recorded trees which peeked over fences and spilled fruit on lawns and walkways.

Using the correct harvesting equipment, fruit pickers, the Stanford Gleaning Project is able to harvest and donate much of the fruit on campus. The faculty neighborhood has been flyered, and produce collected from generous faculty members.

In addition, Stanford has a fantastic community farm, on which the Gleaning Project two plots. Seasonal produce is planted year round and harvested. All harvests are donated.

Along with harvesting efforts, the gleaners work at the Julian Food Pantry on Saturdays.