By Allison Taylor
As we enter the giving season, it’s a great time to reflect on ways in which we can all do a better job of contributing to our community in the year ahead. Although not everyone has the financial resources to donate to charity, everyone does have a skill or talent that could be donated to support those that are less fortunate.
The Society of Saint Andrews (SoSA) is an organization of gleaners, with a Western North Carolina chapter. Gleaners partner with farmers and gardeners to harvest their extra produce and share it with neighbors in need through food pantries and other outreach programs. SoSA salvages donated produce from local farms and delivers it to local agencies and other groups that feed the poor and the hungry. As a nonprofit and charitable organization, SoSA always needs more volunteers to help with this type of work, and also welcomes contributions from farmers, faith groups, civic groups and all who are concerned about hunger and want to ensure that WNC and areas beyond are places where lives and communities can flourish.
North River Farms, located in Mills River, has partnered with SoSA for more than 10 years, and is proud to support such a meaningful cause. “It is an honor to host SoSA each year, and in addition to opening our commercial crops to gleaning following our harvest, we typically plant a couple of acres of potato crops specifically to be gleaned,” says Jason Davis, owner of North River Farms. “It warms our hearts each day that we see volunteers out collecting our produce to be donated to those in need.”
Julie Shea Sutton, the WNC area coordinator for SoSA, shares this tidbit on the history of gleaning: “In ancient Israel, gleaning was the law of the land,” she says. “Landholders could harvest their fields only once, and even then had to leave the corners unharvested. It was a social safety net, allowing what remained to be picked or gathered by the poor, widows, orphans and those who sought refuge. Through the centuries, gleaning has survived as a way of providing for those who cannot provide for themselves.”
Aside from providing food for those in need, the gleaning process also helps to eliminate food waste at the source. “What produce is left in the field or orchard after harvest is picked and delivered by Society of Saint Andrews volunteers in WNC to local food banks, pantries, churches and other agencies, usually within an hour of picking,” says Sutton. The produce that SoSA picks is always to be given free to those most in need. In addition to partnering with farms such as North River Farms, SoSA also gleans recently picked produce from vendors at farmers markets or farm stands.
Like many charitable organizations, Society of Saint Andrews is currently experiencing a volunteer shortage, hindering its efforts to feed WNC. To volunteer, please visit EndHunger.org and click on the “Sign Up to Volunteer” button on the upper right. Then, scroll the list of states to find North and South Carolina.