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.