LUSH Valley volunteers pick potatoes. Maurita Prato photo

LUSH Valley’s Farm Gleaning Program helps those in need

Group employs a ‘farm-centric’ approach

This is the first year of LUSH Valley’s Farm Gleaning Program, which uses organizational networks to recruit volunteers and farm partners to work together. Local farmers are at the centre of the work. LUSH does its best to provide on-farm labour when needed in exchange for excess produce. They call the approach farm-centric.

The program has supplied over 1.000 pounds of diverse, high-quality produce — salad greens, blueberries, cucumbers, tomatoes — to individuals and families who might otherwise go without.

“LUSH Valley’s Farm Gleaning project provides volunteer labour on the farm when I need it most in exchange for the produce that I can’t sell,” says Mariette Sluyter of Whitaker Farm and Merville Organics. “We love knowing that the produce is going to feed people that otherwise may not have access to high quality local produce and it’s great to connect with those who also care about food waste in our community. The whole experience is enriching to so many people, including us as farmers.”

Like the Fruit Tree Program, the Farm Gleaning Project is volunteer run, so it needs lots of hands to make light work of all of the harvesting. Last year, more than 200 volunteers helped. This year, with the added Farm Gleaning program, LUSH is looking for even more volunteer support.

“I abhor wastefulness, especially when it comes to food,” volunteer Sheila Scully said. “It is important for us to honour both the tremendous human effort, and the natural resources required to produce food and to support local production here in the Comox Valley. I love tapping into the wealth of knowledge of the local farmers and gardeners, and love to share in the harvest.”

LUSH Valley works with over 15 community and social services groups, including the Komoks First Nation, CV Transition Society, CV Food Bank, BC Housing and SD71 schools that receive quality produce from the project.

“The impact of this program is amazing,” says Bev Miller, tenants support worker with BC Housing. “Our tenants have access to quality food and it has changed the social dynamic of the community. I see people chatting over the food, talking about recipes and interacting in a whole new way.”

Consider joining LUSH and be part of this amazing project. If interested in volunteering to harvest or signing up your tree or farm for a free gleaning service, sign up at www.lushvalley.org or contact James at fruit@lushvalley.org

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