Taste and See

By Jean Blish Siers *

Girls eating tomatoesWhen we glean, people will often ask – a little shyly — if it’s okay to eat something in the field: sample a ripe, red tomato, or grab a bite of a watermelon that broke trying to get it in the truck. I always tell them yes, and so do the farmers.

Our good farmer friend, Charlie Barbee, who this time of year takes groups of us into the field once or twice a week at his family’s farm, tells them, “If it’s not good raw, it’s not good cooked!” He entices nervous children and adults alike to eat raw corn or dig into a watermelon.

Usually when I’m in a field, I end up with the words from Psalm 34 running in my head: O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. I love reading the psalms, the earthy poetry that acknowledges our fears and errors and continually assures us that if we turn to the Lord, we will find a harbor. I love the tangible, palpable pleasure of watching a truck fill with food. We taste. We see.

Gleaning, to me, is about more than simply filling a truck and filling stomachs. It’s a relational ministry. It’s about our relationship with the earth, with the farmers who produce our food, with the other gleaners who take the time to harvest it, and with the people struggling with food insecurity who will eat the food we glean. It’s good for us to taste, to see that what we’re picking is indeed good food that will nourish our neighbors.

Charlie with melonOnce, I had a group of students in a tomato field and asked them if they’d eaten one yet. They all looked at me as if I were crazy (a pretty common look I receive!) Several assured me that they HATED tomatoes unless they were on pizza or in ketchup. I did what any strong leader would do: I picked a big, juicy, ripe tomato and bit into it, making sure the juice dribbled down my chin. The kids laughed, and then one of the boys thought he’d do it, too, to be funny. He bit into the tomato and his eyes lit up. “Wow! I never knew a tomato tasted like this!” Pretty soon, productivity slowed as everyone gave it a try. They had to taste so they could see it was good, and to see the importance of what they were doing.

When the farmer offers us the chance to harvest his excess, he is telling us to taste and see his crop is good and deserves to be shared. As people glean in the hot sun, we tell them to taste and see the produce. And when our drivers deliver a fresh watermelon to folks with chronic health issues and who cannot eat processed foods, he is telling them, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Thank goodness we are able to provide the network of hands and feet to keep that message alive with those in our community who need to hear it most.

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

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VOLUNTEER WAIVER

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.