Mike Smith and the Grow More, Give More Program

Grow More, Give More Program Repurposes Your Extra Produce

by Rose Kennedy in her “Dirt to Fork” blog, carried in the Knoxville Mercury website. Used with permission. *

They call it gleaning. And while it has nothing to do with aliens or polished gems or anything like that, it’s almost as cool: to gather grain or other material that is left after the main crop has been gathered.

Mike Smith

Mike Smith, SoSA’s Knoxville-Area Gleaning Coordinator

Gleaning as carried out by the Grow More, Give More program co-heralded by the University of Tennessee’s Farmer’s Market and the local chapter of the nonprofit Society of St. Andrew involves a charitable redistribution of your produce wealth. You bring the extra produce that grows in your garden to the market on Wednesday evenings from 4 to 7 p.m. The Knoxville Gleaning Coordinator for SoSA, Mike Smith, meets you there, tallies the poundage, and makes sure a food pantry or other local charity gets it to redistribute to working poor or down-on-their luck cooks, or to use to fix meals for the needy.

You can get more or less expansive—planting extra just for this purpose, for example, or just buying a little extra from the market vendors to donate.

Smith, who volunteers his time and is part of the larger national group that has projects in eight states, welcomes it all with a cheerful grin. He looks like a stern accountant in quiet moments, but when someone approaches the booth bearing, say, a basket of gleaming green zucchini, he is suddenly recognizable as the man who signs e-mails with “THANKS for being YOU!!”

His smile is only part of the reason all my fretting is over almost as soon as it starts. He also answers each bit of skepticism I put forth with a no-nonsense explanation, based on his seven years with SoSA and three years with UT’s GMGM:

What if you’re like me and never experience that plague of extra zucchini or cucumbers, instead having extras of, say, non-bulbing fennel or mint. You wouldn’t want that, would you?

Yes, they would. “We take any fresh produce anyway you give it to us. We, SoSA, will take anything edible and find it a home for someone or some group in need. We took a big bag of thyme the other night and the ladies at Samaritan Place were so excited about having that to use for the next day’s meals.”

Photo from Knoxville MercuryWouldn’t most hungry people have trouble being able to fix the food for themselves, lacking kitchens and so forth? “When we have crop drops we typically have six to 12 individuals come by and pick up portions. We give to places like Knox Area Rescue Ministries, Love Kitchen, and FISH, that have volunteers who can fix the vegetables. But mainly we give to church pantries that give the produce out to the families right when they get back to their church.” Those recipients freely select say, the broccoli rabe or the Swiss chard that was donated the first GMGM night of 2015, June 5.

The part where some of the stuff goes to the zoo, that’s just a nice story?

No. “I do work with the zoo, particularly when we have a 40,000-pound truck load of something, because it will usually contain produce that is just overly ripe—the almost rotten or squashed ends up with them.”

And you tell me that the animals there will eat it?

Sure. “Elephants, gorillas and pigs all like the sweet potatoes when we get them. The zoo has said that if a human eats some kind of food; they will have an animal there that will also like that kind of food.”

What if everyone has a surplus of the same thing at the same time? Tomatoes, if my garden is any indication, are going to slather the landscape with their fruit this year, for example.

Bring it on. “We did over 10,000 pounds with UT Farmers Market last year, including gleaning from various farmers and the UT Organic Farm. We did more than 8,800 pounds from Edible Arrangements—fresh fruit that they couldn’t use and my church, Concord United Methodist, participated by gleaning roughly 60,000 pounds of Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, and green beans.”

Uh oh, there’s that church word. Many a do-gooder vegetable gardener flounders when faith is a condition of participation. So, do you have to be churchy to participate?

Not at all. “We work with faith-based and secular groups, like Wesley House, Positively Living, Teen Challenge, Volunteer Ministries, Samaritan Place, Ladies of Charity, West Park Baptist Church’s Bread of Life Pantry, Faith Lutheran’s Shepherd of Hope Pantry, the Sevier County Food Pantry and probably 15 more churches.”

But if you want to approach it from a faith-based perspective, that’s okay?

Photo from Knoxville Mercury“For me, it’s both faith and personality. I was brought up in a Christian home and we didn’t waste and we tried to help others in need. My faith from that nurturing has continued to help we find ways to try to help folks less fortunate than I am. I am blessed to be able to my little part and I give God all the glory.”

If you’re going to grow extra for GMGM, should it be high in nutrition, like kale, or something that will keep a long time, like winter squash?

Whatever you want to grow, “we’ll take it.”

But not buggy produce, surely?

“We don’t want bugs.”

This gets me to thinking about my kale, which us Southerners would say was “all ate up” by cabbage flies or some other villain. Some nice person or market vendor has donated a raft (that’s maybe not the technical term) of gorgeous, tender, Red Russian kale that’s just like mine should be, but isn’t.

If some food pantry patron ended up with that, what could they make with it? I wonder out loud.

Ah, don’t ask Smith. “No ma’am. You don’t want me to cook for you or anyone else—ha!”

Lucky for me, the next booth over at this Wednesday market is Jeff Martin, extension assistant for the UT Farmer’s Market and a dab hand with recipes for the produce he provides to his CSA customers, and the excess he donates to GMGM.

Red Russian kale and red onion savory breakfast squares?

As Smith would say, “We’ll take it!”


Red and Green Kale Arrangement

Red and Green Kale Arrangement

(adapted from Regina Schrambling’s recipe for Collard Squares)

Makes 6 servings

1 bunch Red Russian kale, chopped, or use any other variety of kale

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced (1/2 tsp. minced garlic)

1/2 tsp. olive oil

1 tsp. tamari or other soy sauce

1 C grated cheese (I used a blend of low-fat cheese called Pizza Cheese which has mozzarella, provolone, Romano, and Parmesan)

1/4 cup 100 percent whole wheat bread crumbs (Optional; I’ve made this successfully without the bread crumbs)

6 eggs, beaten well

1/2 tsp. all-purpose seasoning like Spike

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Cut off kale stems and discard, wash kale leaves and dry well. (I use a salad spinner.)

3. Pile kale leaves up on top of each other and cut into strips about 3/4-inch wide, then turn cutting board the other way and cut again so you have squares just under an inch square. Chop onion into pieces about 1/2 inch.

4. Heat olive oil in large heavy frying pan, add onions and sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté about 2 more minutes, then add kale, turning over as it wilts and sautéeing about 5 minutes, or until kale is significantly wilted and softened.

5. Put sautéed vegetables into a large bowl and add tamari, cheese, bread crumbs, beaten eggs, and seasoning. Stir gently until ingredients are well distributed.

6. Spray pan with olive oil or nonstick spray and pour in egg mixture. (I cook it in my Oster Toaster Oven, and used a pan that’s 11.5 x 7.5 inches.)

7. Bake 20-25 minutes until eggs are well set and the top is lightly browned. Serve hot. This is good with low-fat sour cream or salsa

Courtesy Jeff Martin, Extension Assistant, UT Farmers Market

* Rose Kennedy went to Knoxville to work as an editorial assistant on 13-30’s Retail Appliance Management Series and never saw a reason to leave. Her “so uncool I’m cool” career among the alt weekly newspaper crowd has led to award-winning articles on Dr. Bill Bass and the Body Farm and cyber-bullying at West High School, and treasonous food columns about preferring unsweet tea and feeling ambivalent about biscuits.


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In the event I, or a registered family member, suffers any illness or accident requiring emergency hospitalization, medication, or other medical assistance while participating in a gleaning event, permission is given for any medical treatment which is deemed necessary and reasonable under the circumstances. I fully understand and comprehend that reasonable care will be exercised by the adult staff for this gleaning event to protect the safety of those involved. I understand that the field supervisor’s instructions must be followed at all times, and that I am responsible for any damages caused to fields, farms, or equipment by me/my family members not following these instructions.

Photos, videos, and other images in which I, or a registered family member, appear that are taken during gleanings may be used by the Society of St. Andrew for news coverage, newsletters, reports, displays, and for other print, broadcast, web, or electronic news or promotional purposes.

I do not hold the board, members, or employees of the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA,) or any volunteers liable for injury, bodily harm, accidents, or death of myself/my child during events sponsored by the Society of St. Andrew. Neither will I hold the person(s) who owns and/or operates the property from which we glean, salvage, or to which we deliver food, liable for accidents, injury, or death during the gleanings or other SoSA events.

For a PDF print version of this waiver, click here.

How the Story of the 12 Baskets is Connected to SoSA’s Name

Matthew 14:16-21

But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

2 Kings 4:42-44

[…]the man of God […] said, “Give them to the people that they may eat.” His attendant said, “What, will I set this before a hundred men?” But he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’” So he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.

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