Recently I was asked if I wanted to, “glean tomatoes.”
My natural reaction to this was, “what the hell is gleaning tomatoes?”
Turns out that gleaning is gathering leftovers, after a harvest.
Industrial farming operations will let volunteers (usually church groups) come onto their private farm and glean the leftovers from the seasons harvest so that it can be donated to food banks.
They get a tax write off for the extra product and it serves the community in a positive way so it’s a win-win for everyone.
I went gleaning with my family on a saturday morning.
Here are 3 things I learned during the experience.
1. You get filthy picking tomatoes.
After about an hour your hands turn a shade of black and green. It appears to be the residue of breaking plant matter (stems) over and over to remove the tomatoes.
The silver lining is the beautiful citrus smell that fills the air.
It’s fun to play in the dirt and get dirty.
2. There is no bathroom.
For pampered, privileged white people (like myself and my family) the conversation continually veers into the working conditions while your out there.
Your immediately struck by how shitty it would be to do this for an 8 hour day, with no bathroom and probably shit pay.
It’s hard physical work and there is no bathroom.
3. Picking tomatoes is an art.
Filling 30 pounds boxes of tomatoes one by one is not an automatic process.
You have to really scan each row of vines and sort through ripe and unripened ones. Find ones that are the right size and aren’t too mishapen.
They can’t be too green, but they can’t be too soft (red) either.
When you find a perfect one there is a slight moment of delight. So many are hiding in the vines and out of sight initially.
I found myself talking to the tomatoes. Finding a beauty and saying, “Oooh, look at you little one.”
It was truly nice being jolted from my digital life and getting to put my hands in the dirt for a morning.
I’m glad that I got to play a small part in serving someone else with my time.