Gleaning: Where surplus and hunger meet

GLEANERS work to gather food at Trout Lake Farm this fall.

Photo by Janeal Booren, Washington Gorge Action Program
GLEANERS work to gather food at Trout Lake Farm this fall.

The Columbia Gorge Gleaning Project connects those experiencing hunger to local, farm-fresh produce. The need is high — one in three residents of the Gorge are food insecure — yet produce left in local fields is abundant. According to Feeding America, nearly half of the food grown, processed and transported in the U.S. goes to waste.


Volunteers Haley Martin and Sidney Axtel climb an apple tree during a glean.

This fall, 60 volunteers gathered in orchards and fields to rescue nearly 4,000 pounds of apples, pears, kale, parsley, carrots, and chestnuts at 12 different sites in the Gorge. The process of harvesting connects people to each other and the land, which is one of the goals of the Gleaning Project, designed and started by a Ford Leadership Institute Training in 2015. The cohort wanted a project that would leave a legacy and connect residents with one another while also:

• Reducing food waste

• Providing a safe and fun way for adults and children to learn more about where food comes from, and how what we eat impacts our health.

• Increasing access to fresh, local food for those in need

• Providing regular opportunities for civic engagement which reduces social isolation

• Creating community and solidarity across sectors, counties, and cultures to increase resilience in our community

Adam Hyde, project manager of Trout Lake Farm, teamed up with the gleaners this October to redirect unharvested vegetables to those in need. When asked whether he would recommend other farmers get involved, Hyde answered, “I would tell any farmer to sign up for gleaning. Planting is the easy part. Harvesting can take more effort and this project makes it easy for farms to have volunteers come do the work.”

Trout Lake Farm is working with the Gleaning Project to determine which crops to grow for next year’s gleans. Products like greens, herbs and berries are nutrient-dense, but can be more difficult for food pantries to procure than potatoes or onions.

Jane Palmer, a retired nurse who worked in public health for more than 40 years, has helped with several gleans this fall. “We know there are families throughout the Gorge that go to bed hungry, having missed a meal every day. This project makes a difference,” said Palmer.

Hood River Valley Adult Center is one recipient of gleaned carrots, apples and pears this fall. Amy Mallet, the executive director at Hood River Valley Adult Center and Meals on Wheels, said, “Having access to fresh, local and nutritious food for our seniors who are on limited monthly budgets is key in helping our seniors age at home and thrive. We are grateful for this program. It’s hard work and they always show up with a smile on their faces and a giving heart.”

When gleaners are in the fields, they brainstorm ways to expand and improve the project. While digging carrots, volunteers discussed the possibility of gleans for new mothers who may want to harvest vegetables, then learn how to make homemade baby food. The possibilities seem endless.

Of course, gleaning is not the only solution to end hunger in the Gorge. According to Gorge Grown, the Gleaning Project is just one of many programs that Gorge Grown Food Network manages to build a resilient, inclusive food system that improves the health and well-being of our community.

The project is managed by Gorge Grown Food Network, and coordinated by Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest/AmeriCorps member Louisa Pavlik. Gorge Grown is currently seeking funding for a Gleaning Project Manager. Consider getting involved today by contacting, donating to the project, or registering a crop to share at

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