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Nothing to waste

  • Cherry tomatoes are dropped off at the Peterborough Food Pantry. Staff photo by Abby Kessler

  • Hazel Gershfield, coordinator for Hillsborough County Gleaners, and her daughter Rose unload cherry tomatoes at the Peterborough Food Pantry. Staff photo by Abby Kessler

  • Hillsborough County Gleaners pick cherry tomatoes at Rosaly’s Garden and Farmstand on Friday Oct. 7, 2016. The tomatoes were later donated to a local food pantry and an religious organization that redistributes the food to refugee families in Nashua. (Abby Kessler/ Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Hazel Gershfield, coordinator for Hillsborough County Gleaners, picks cherry tomatoes at Rosalyn’s Garden and Farmstand on Oct. 7, 2016. (Abby Kessler/ Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Volunteer Ann Wilson, of Merrimack, picks cherry tomatoes at Rosaly’s Garden and Farmstand earlier this month. The tomatoes were donated to the Peterborough Food Pantry. (Abby Kessler/ Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler

  • Hazel Gershfield, coordinator for Hillsborough County Gleaners, picks cherry tomatoes at Rosalyn’s Garden and Farmstand on Oct. 7, 2016. (Abby Kessler/ Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, October 17, 2016

On a recent Friday afternoon, Hazel Gershfield of Bennington and a small group of volunteers ducked into a hoop house at Rosaly’s Garden and Farmstand.

The group scoured the vines and plucked ripe cherry tomatoes from the branches.

They collected enough tomatoes to fill several cardboard boxes, loaded them into the back of a big van and hauled the yield away to the Peterborough Food Pantry. 

“We’re taking good food and redistributing it to people who can’t afford to buy it,” said Gershfield, who is the coordinator for the Hillsborough branch of New Hampshire Gleans, a network of organizations across the state that connects excess produce to food pantries, soup kitchens, community suppers and schools.

The group is lead by the the Hillsborough County Conservation District and is part of a statewide effort called New Hampshire Gleans, which is largely funded through an anonymous donation given to the University of New Hampshire.

Last year, the organization collected more than 114,000 pounds across the state. The Hillsborough County Gleaners alone rescued 32,000 pounds of food last year, which was redistributed to 16 different agencies.

So far, in 2016 Hillsborough county gleaned 29,885 pounds.

“I remember [Gershfeld] walked in one day with all this produce, and I wasn’t particularly familiar with what gleaning was at the time, and I looked at her and said, ‘Who are you?’ said Chris Mann, president of the Peterborough Food Pantry, a regional pantry that serves about 350 homes every year. “It was like an angel had come to our pantry.”

Since then, Mann said the pantry has received “huge quantities” of produce from the group.

“They bring in bushel after bushel and carton after carton of fruits and veggies,” she said.

The produce makes summers “extra special” at the pantry, Mann said.

Food is collected from farmers and local gardeners who donate excess food throughout the growing season.

Tom Mitchell, who owns Ledge Top Farm in Wilton, said he started donating vegetables to the group several years ago.

“Some crops just come in so abundantly, like kale and swiss chard,” Mitchell said. “This year it was cherry tomatoes. I couldn’t pick them all and I couldn’t sell them all, so this was the logical thing to do. It’s nice to know that some good is coming from this food.”

To run such an operation, Gershfield – who is compensated for 20 hours per week through the growing season – relys heavily on volunteers.

“I couldn’t do it without [volunteers],” Gershfield said. “I can’t overstate that enough.”

She said there are 46 volunteers on the books, although some only volunteer once or twice throughout the season.

Ann Wilson, of Merrimack, said she discovered the group while researching ways to work for food on the internet. She said she stumbled onto the NH Gleans website this year, and started volunteering with the organization shortly thereafter.

“It’s a great group of people who are doing something good for the community,” she said.

Gershfield said she is always looking for places to donate, farmers with excess produce and volunteers to help harvest the fruits and veggies. All of the information can be found on its website: nhgleans.org.

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.