By Jean Blish Siers *
I enjoy my job for many different reasons. I love being in the fields in the summer, working with volunteers to save as much food as possible. I love meeting the folks who receive our food, knowing that as a Society of St. Andrew representative, I play a part in bringing something healthy and delicious to someone who might not get fresh produce often. Last week, I attended the Southern Piedmont Local Food Producers Conference in Monroe, NC, and was reminded of one of the biggest reasons I love my job: talking with farmers who work the land and share their bounty.
Sponsored by Rocky River Local Foods and North Carolina Extension, this is a relatively new conference. Its goals are to educate and to connect, stressing the importance of local foods on the economy and the environment. The day is filled with classes and programs about native pollinators, new ways to raise blueberries, expanding agri-tourism, and finding ways to use social media to get products from farm to customers. A busy trade show, it featured everyone from seed companies to app creators.
A wide variety of growers stopped by my booth. Some have worked with us for years and just came by to chat. Others were newer to farming or simply had not heard of us. They came from farms ranging from hundreds of acres to less than an acre. Even those who produced things we wouldn’t necessarily glean were interested in what we do and why we do it. It reinforced my belief that farmers don’t raise things simply to throw them away.
I came home having made contacts with growers who might share their excess with us. And I came away with renewed respect for these hardworking men and women. They have to be experts not only in agriculture, but in business and marketing as well.
It would be great if everyone had a chance to know the farmers who raise his or her food. Most of us can, if we take the time. I encourage everyone to visit a farmers market, sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture,) or stop by a farm stand this spring and pick up a bucket of strawberries that taste better than anything you’d get in the store. And feel free to let them know about Society of St. Andrew and the gleaning network. We also love to educate and to connect!
*Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s Charlotte Area Gleaning Coordinator.