After the Harvest

Is the name of a scrappy “little” non-profit organization here in the Kansas City Area. I had the fun of working with them today, applying the old concept of “gleaning” to a new setting.

The concept of gleaning began in a more agrarian age. Its best formulation can be seen in the Pentateuch and book of Ruth in the Bible, where farmers were forbidden, in the harvest of their fields, to harvest to the very edges, or to go back and pick up crops that they missed going through the first time in the harvest. Instead, what was left, or dropped, was to be available for the poor and needy to come through the fields to gather to meet their needs. Benevolent and socially responsible farmers would leave wide borders around their fields for the poor and needy to glean.

Fast-forward to today, and we have After the Harvest. This non-profit organizes volunteers to go through farmers fields to gather left-over food to donate to area food pantries and other area organizations that provide food to the hungry in our metro area. They team with area farmers, who, like the benevolent and socially responsible farmers of Biblical days, open their fields for gleaning of unharvested food to be used to provide for the needy in our communities.

Modern agriculture processes produce a lot of food that gets harvested, but also a lot that is not aesthetically salable in grocery stores or suitable for long-distance transport. Rather than have it simply rot in the fields, the farmers, in partnership with After the Harvest, and its volunteers, bring that food to area food pantries where it fills the same social need gleaning did in days of yore.

With the above description of After the Harvest, when I volunteered to glean today, I expected to be gleaning in a farmer’s field somewhere. Instead I found myself in another location, experiencing another piece of the food sufficiency puzzle in our metro area — A community garden.

Tuesday’s Glean was at the WIC-sponsored community garden in Olathe. I was there with the field organizer and several After the Harvest volunteers, along with volunteers and organizers of the WIC community garden itself.

It was a cold morning, upper 40s and lower 50s, and very windy. But we put to work with a will, and gloriously soaked in the warmth sunlight when it finally made its appearance.

We are near the end of the season, but it was amazing how many pounds of food were left, and how many things are still growing.  We dug potatoes and sweet potatoes, pulled radishes, picked cabbage, broccoli, peppers (2 kinds). We also weeded, tilled and collected vines for composting. Once all the harvesting was done, we processed the food, cleaning dirt off potatoes, for example, and weighing it and getting it ready for distribution.

I had an enjoyable time, and felt a sense of satisfaction doing something physical to help others, being part of the very organic network that makes our metro community thrive as it does, by how we care for the environment and the people around us.

If you are interested in knowing more about After the Harvest and their gleaning project, just click on the link above. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures from today’s glean below:




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