Gleaning at the Mill City Farmers Market
Originally published in The Journal.
“What exactly is gleaning?” is a question with which Nell Gehrke, of the Mill City Farmers Market’s Greens for Good program, starts many of her Saturdays. Her volunteers often guess that it means green cleaning or glamorous cleaning, a la “glamping,” but contrary to these speculations, no brooms or mops are involved. Gleaning is the act of going over a farm field or area that has just been harvested and gathering any usable parts of the crop that remain. Nell and her team do this at the Market too.
Mill City Farmers Market has been working with Augsburg’s Campus Kitchen since 2013, collecting excess produce from farmers at the end of the day for the Market’s Greens for Good gleaning program. Farmers give fruits and vegetables that didn’t sell, “seconds” (slightly bruised or with other aesthetic concerns), CSA boxes that didn’t get picked up, produce that won’t survive the drive home or for any number of other reasons.
When Nell and her crew arrive at the Market a little before 1 p.m. (the market’s closing time), they don their green vests and gather the needed supplies to collect produce from farmers: collapsible boxes, a few hand carts and a scale for weighing donations. For the first time in 2018, the Market is even able to compensate farmers for their donated product at a set rate per pound thanks to a generous sponsorship from Delta Dental.
From July to October, volunteers collect over 5,000 pounds of Mill City Farmers Market tomatoes, greens, squash and more that they bring and giveaway at a pop-up “market” for seniors in low-income housing in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood. Any leftover produce is used in Campus Kitchen’s community garden lunch, the Campus Cupboard food shelf or for their Sunday night cooking class where Campus Kitchen teaches low-income and first generation college students how to prepare healthy and delicious dishes using the fresh veggies.
In addition to distributing an average of 40 bags of produce on Saturday afternoons, another challenge is teaching community members how to use it. Greens for Good is working to expand its programing by having volunteers demo and sample simple recipes like the one below at its pop-up markets.
This Saturday, October 6th, The Mill City Farmers Market is highlighting its Greens for Good program and opening donations to the public. To get involved, simply purchase an extra bunch of greens, pint of tomatoes or any other product when you’re grocery shopping at the market this Saturday and bring it to the Greens for Good and Delta Dental tent at the top of the Market. To learn more, visit our Greens for Good event page.