Submitted by Chuck Polance
I blame The Gleaning Project of Pierce County for making me A LAZY GARDENER. So, don’t blame me. Let me set the record straight. You be the judge. Here’s my story and I’m sticking to it:
August 2016 was here. I needed APPLES! Lots and lots of them!! My big, powerful cider press was itching to start squeezing some juice. I advertised on Craigslist hoping to score some early
varieties being grown in Pierce County. Let’s see, according to the Raintree catalog, early ripening cultivars are William’s Pride, Pristine, Zestar, Akane and a few others. My energy level was high. Let’s get picking!
After a week on Craigslist I finally received my first reply! A helpful guy saw my “Wanted” ad and suggested that I was looking for apples “in all the wrong places.” HUH? “Why don’t you join the Gleaning Project?” Well, I did and BAM! An immediate return E-mail welcomed me: “Thank you for registering as a volunteer with Pierce County Gleaning Project. You will find all that you need to know about how to sign up for harvests and how they work on our web pages. Start at the home page, Pierce County Gleaning Project, and click on the Volunteer button. On that page you will find information and other resources.” WOW! Is that all there is to it?!? I was off and running.
The next day I was given the opportunity to sign-up for several picking projects; two (2) days later I was on a ladder harvesting figs from 2-large trees in my area. I was pleasantly surprised! Soon I was harvesting Italian plums, then apples… LOTS OF THEM! The program coordinators provide all the ladders and baskets to the team for the agricultural bounty.
Where does the produce go? About 50% of the food from fruit tree harvests is donated, with the other 50% divided between the volunteer harvesters and the homeowner (25% for each). At my first excursion, fig tree owner didn’t want any more figs (that’s why he called the Project) and the Gleaners found the figs too perishable to take to food banks. Thus, the team members were allowed to keep all they picked!
As the months progressed, I began to learn who some of the big donors were in Pierce County. Gleaner teams journeyed to Picha Farms to pick raspberries, pumpkins and corn. Duris Cucumber Farm donated thousands upon thousands of pounds of (you guessed it) cucumbers over the last several seasons. Scholz Farms always has surplus rhubarb to harvest, etc. These major contributors along with the numerous small backyard fruit growers receive a tax deductible donor receipt.
A monthly newsletter keeps us well-informed of all developments. I find it interesting to share that from June to November, 102 Harvest Pierce County volunteers attended 96 harvests with the Gleaning Project. The overall harvest this past year included everything from beets, squash, beans and strawberries…even kiwi!
My gardening plans and outlook have changed forever. I plan to spend LESS time and effort planting, fertilizing, watering, etc., and MORE time and energy picking! So, call me a LAZY GARDENER.