No Small Potatoes

By Jean Blish Siers *

Potatoes from Walther FarmIn the gleaning world, once November comes, the produce supply can become pretty thin. This year was particularly rough in the Charlotte area where I work. A hot and exceptionally dry summer meant we missed a lot of the corn we typically harvest. The crops were simply too sparse for the farmers to have spares. The heat lasted into the fall and destroyed our most dependable late crops: turnips and greens. Even tomato harvests were smaller. We still had lots of zucchini and yellow squash until Hurricane Matthew brought much needed rain, but so much in some areas that entire crops were washed out of the ground. And there went the summer squash.

So it was with a happy heart that I answered the phone in early November to hear Troy Edwards on the other end of the line. He works for Walther Farms, a large potato farmer and distributor. Each year, Walther Farms asks employees to name a ministry in their community to receive several thousand pounds of potatoes at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Troy found Society of St. Andrew last year and we gratefully distributed 5,000 pounds of lovely spuds at each of the holidays.

This year, we got a bonus to our bonus! Troy said this time we’d also receive 2,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, a healthy favorite at Thanksgiving. The only catch: the sweet potatoes weren’t bagged. But we’d never let a little thing like that deter us.

Volunteers Bagging Potatoes at Walther FarmOur partner agency, Loaves and Fishes, generously allowed all the potatoes to be offloaded into their warehouse. That afternoon, a half dozen of us descended on the biggest bin of sweet potatoes I’ve ever seen. It was made of wood slats, probably ten feet long and four or five feet wide, and deep enough I had to crawl inside to get the last of the spuds out of the red sandy soil in the bottom.

We loaded trucks with a mix of white and sweet potatoes and off they went to five counties: to food pantries, soup kitchens, refugee communities, and low-income neighborhoods – just in time for Thanksgiving.

After a hard year, it was a generous gift from a company that could have sold all those perfectly good potatoes themselves. Perhaps, to their bottom line, our shipment was small potatoes, but to us, and to the folks we serve, it meant a happier, healthier, more traditional Thanksgiving. And there’s nothing small about that.

* Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s Charlotte Area Gleaning Coordinator.



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.