Leviticus 23:22 – “When you reap the harvest of your land, don’t reap the corners of the field or gather the gleanings. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners. I am God, your God.”
Gleaning isn’t a term thrown around in typical every day conversation, but in my time with RISE, it has become a regular vocabulary word.
As indicated by the previous verse, gleaning was a practice of the ancient Israelites in which farmers did not gather produce from the edge of their fields so those who did not have food, including the poor and the foreigners, could be provided for. A more well known example of gleaning in the Bible is the story of Ruth, in which Ruth gleaned from Boaz’s fields to provide food for her and her mother-in-law, Naomi. In Ruth’s story and the Leviticus passage, gleaning is another beautiful extension of God’s love, provision, and justice, and it is a beautiful reality being realized on Tuesdays and Saturdays at the Harrisonburg Farmer’s Market.
Last summer, RISE partnered with Society of St. Andrews, a national gleaning organization, and through this partnership started gleaning food donated by vendors at the Tuesday Farmer’s Market. We dreamed of one day collecting food at the Saturday Market, and this summer, this amazing dream is being realized.
Our first Saturday Market was an amazing snapshot of God’s Dream for the world. We received 35.5 pounds of lettuce, greens, and other nutritious vegetables (and even some shortcakes!) that otherwise may have been thrown away. It was truly amazing talking to the vendors with my six other volunteers, sharing what we were doing, and see the vendors give back in such beautiful ways. It was beautiful to see people come up to us with boxes and bags of produce, saying “Can you use this?” “Blessings on what you’re doing.” “We’re so glad you’re here!” “Will you be back next week?”
And I can’t help but love the irony of filling up boxes I picked up from the ABC store with life-giving and nourishing produce for people in need.
As coordinator of the “gleaners,” it is my responsibility to invite people to experience the love and hope shared at the Tuesday and Saturday Markets. We stay at the Market to receive donations from the vendors from 12:30-1:30, and then we take the produce to a different local food pantry each week. The Tuesday pantry rotation is: Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Summit House, Community Mennonite Church, and Edom UMC. The pantries that receive produce from the Saturday Market are: The Salvation Army, Mercy House, Valley Mission, Our Community Place, and First Step Shelter.
And while gleaning is a whole lot about the “give love” part of our “receive love. give love. repeat.” motto at RISE, there’s a whole lot of love to be received while gleaning. We receive a lot of love in the connections we make with the vendors, hearing their stories on farming and their lives in general, and some beautiful relationships have been made as a result of these connections. Gayle, a vendor known for her delicious homemade breads, was selling some of the most scrumptious fresh strawberries I’ve had in a long time, so I bought some, put them in a bag, and the gleaning group shared them together in our makeshift “communal bag.”
And honestly, how could you not receive a lot of love when you get to spend time with people like THIS?
So if you have a passion for feeding hungry people, supporting local farmers, getting involved in your community, or if you happen to have a free Tuesday or Saturday afternoon, please join us in this movement of love in Harrisonburg! You can simply show up the day of gleaning, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more or get involved!
And to find out more about the amazing work of the Society of St. Andrews, check out their site: http://endhunger.org/gleaning_network.htm
Hope to see you at the Market!