Music could take up my entire life if I let it. Time for composing, publishing my scores, practicing, and rehearsing (once the choruses get back to meeting again) could justify my doing nothing else. I could easily get away without seeing anyone but my family and other musicians. I just don’t want to live that way.
I want to be an active member in the larger community, not just the music community.
I had long thought about how I might volunteer in a way that would be suited to me. There is a food pantry near me, within biking distance, and I considered helping there. But volunteering every single week at a regular time is more than I can commit to.
Someone in a group I’m in on Facebook once mentioned “gleaning groups” so I decided to find out if Rhode Island has such a group. I was very excited to find out it does!
In the fall of 2019, I discovered Hope’s Harvest, an organization that connects local farmers and food banks. Farmers will donate extra crop they can’t sell – or even that they grow specifically to donate! – and Hope’s Harvest coordinates teams of volunteers to pick the crop and transport it to the local food banks so this burden is not carried by the farmers. It is a creative way to solve two problems: what to do with produce the farmer can’t sell, and how to get nutritious fresh produce to those who can’t afford it.
I knew right away that working with Hope’s Harvest was something I wanted to do.
In the fall of 2019, the harvest season was just finishing up so I didn’t get out on any gleaning trips then. But in the spring of 2020, I did the brief training and attended my first gleaning trips.
Let me tell you why Hope’s Harvest is a perfect fit for me.
- The people are wonderful. The team leaders from Hope’s Harvest are extremely helpful and knowledgeable. They tell you exactly what you need to know to pick properly. No experience is needed. The trip is very well-organized, and the other gleaners are super-friendly. We are able to chat while we work. It’s a great feeling to work with like-minded people.
- Most of the harvesting is during the summer. Summer is my down-time. The choruses I accompany follow a school-year schedule, so I don’t have rehearsals during the summer. Most of my students also take fewer lessons during the summer. This all makes me more available to go on gleaning trips.
- The way the gleaning trips are organized, I don’t have to commit to the same time and day every week. I don’t even have to let them know if I will be away. I simply don’t sign up for trips I can’t attend. If I can only volunteer once during a harvest season, that’s OK! Hope’s Harvest is grateful for all helpers! I also only sign up for trips that I want to drive to. Hope’s Harvest works with farmers all over Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts. Some of those farms are over an hour away from me! I probably will not go to those. I only sign up for gleaning trips that are within the distance I am willing to drive. In short, my volunteer work is customizable. If I really only wanted to pick kale, I could.
- I like the variety. Each gleaning trip focuses on one, maybe two, different crops. I have picked kale, corn, butternut squash, potatoes and sweet potatoes. (I might be forgetting something.) Other trips offered the opportunity to pick tomatoes, peppers, peas, apples, and the list goes on. Also, every farm is different. I am always interested in how the farms are set up, as well as the local scenery around them. One farm was tucked away, hidden within a state park!
- I get outside. I love being outdoors, and this is an excuse to get outside. I wouldn’t be as happy volunteering inside. I also get some exercise. Let me tell you, carrying buckets of butternut squash is a workout!
- I get to meet the farmers. Occasionally, we even work with the farmers, depending on their schedule. I have even been able to ask a few questions on how to better grow things in my own vegetable garden, and they have been generous with their tips!
- Isn’t the name Hope’s Harvest just PERFECT? I will not bother explaining this because it would take a book. I will just say this one thing: what a way to incorporate the motto of Rhode Island!
The last reason I feel so connected to the mission of Hope’s Harvest is more personal and deserves it’s own paragraph.
I was once in a position where I would have benefited from an organization like this. When my husband was in seminary, we had a very difficult time making ends meet. Our children were not yet school-age, so I worked from home as a piano teacher and running a small MLM business. We were new to a very tiny town, and I wasn’t well-connected, so I didn’t have many students. My husband worked full time, but the pay wasn’t great because he needed a job that conformed to his school schedule. Despite both of us working, our little family of four lived beneath the poverty line for five years. It was very hard. Inexpensive food is not healthy food. I know from personal experience how hard it can be for low-income people to afford, and even access, fresh produce. It gives me joy to be able to lend a hand in getting fresh, nutritious, and tasty produce into the hands of those who need it.
This year, when Hope’s Harvest sent out a request for “peer to peer” fundraisers, I immediately accepted the opportunity. I knew that with my blog, a following on my professional Facebook page, and my connections with choruses, I might be able to bring a decent amount of attention to Hope’s Harvest.
Today is “401Gives” day. 401 to go with the Rhode Island area code and also 4/01, the first day of April. 401Gives is an organization that assists other organizations in Rhode Island raise money. The link below is my page for raising money for Hope’s Harvest. I hope you will join me in supporting this worthy organization.
These are some of the ways Hope’s Harvest can use your donation:
$25 – 1 tote filled with fresh produce delivered to people in need. $65 – 1 week’s worth of gas for gleaning trips with Harvey, the Hope’s Harvest refrigerated truck. $125 – 1 week’s worth of food safe bin liners for our fresh produce. $500 – 300 lbs of produce from a small, local farmer for hunger relief purposes.
If you are local, I would also love to see you on a gleaning trip this upcoming season!
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