phenology fi-ˈnä-lə-jē n 1 : a branch of science dealing with the relations between climate and periodic biological phenomena (such as bird migration or plant flowering) 2: periodic biological phenomena that are correlated with climatic conditions
Local Abundance and Gleaning
I moved into my house last October. It sits on a city lot right in the thick of Port Angeles with four fruit trees that have clearly not been cared for over the last several years. They were all hosting dead and broken branches and in desperate need of a good pruning. Being the new caretaker of a nearly 100-year-old home, I’ve had more than my fair share of home improvement projects on my plate and pruning the trees just didn’t make the cut this spring. I thought there was no way that they would bear fruit in their current state and resigned their care to being a future project. I couldn’t have been more wrong. First, I was swimming in cherries, then plums, and now apples—all incredibly delicious! I was both inspired and overwhelmed by the amount of produce that was created by this little, uncared-for piece of land.
Because of shorter daylight hours for a good portion of the year, we have a short growing season here. Despite this, the Peninsula is a place of abundance. Sandwiched in the strip of land between the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the mild climate and fertile soils of the North Olympic Peninsula allow both wild and cultivated food and crops to flourish. The mountains protect us and the waterway helps keep us cool. Healthy fall and winter rains help feed the many rivers and streams that provide us with water. Even in the driest of times, Clallam County tends to be one last counties in the state to face drought. All of these factors contribute to what makes this area so lush and plentiful.
Summertime can feel like a delicious explosion of fruits, veggies, and other local foods. Farms, gardens, unkempt yards (like mine), and community spaces can generate immense amounts of produce. Sometimes, more food is grown than folks need or know what to do with. We are incredibly lucky to have gleaning programs through the WSU Clallam County Extension office! These folks are working hard to reduce food waste by harvesting local produce for community members who need it.
Gleaning with WSU Extension
The WSU Extension Office is looking for gardens with extra plums, pears, peaches, or apricots for the Clallam Backyard Gleaning Program. “Gleaning” is an old-fashioned word that means harvesting the extra produce from farms and gardens. They have a group of volunteer gleaners who will come and harvest from your yard and donate much of what they pick to food banks, senior centers, and after school programs.
“If you have too much of a good thing, consider sharing the wealth with your neighbors in Clallam County,” encourages Sharah Truett, the WSU Extension Gleaning Coordinator. She adds, “You can really put a smile on the face of a senior who visits one of our local senior centers by helping put fresh produce on the ‘giveaway table.’ We often hear from low-income seniors that our gleaned produce reminds them of their childhood growing up on a farm”.
The gleaners are looking for ripe, but not overripe, produce. They are seeking sites with at least two plastic grocery sacks full of produce to make it worth a gleaner’s gas mileage to drive there. Contact the gleaning coordinator a few days before peak ripeness to ensure volunteer gleaners can be found in time for harvest. They are also interested in other rare types of local produce like almonds, walnuts, blueberries, grapes, green vegetables, corn, and tomatoes.
Learn how to sign your yard up to be a glean site or become a volunteer gleaner at www.clallamgleaners.org. If you have any further questions about backyard gleaning, contact the WSU Gleaning Coordinator Sharah Truett at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 360-565-2619.
Volunteers are also needed for their weekly vegetable glean at River Run Farm in Sequim. Are you interested in gleaning in a farm setting? Working with a wonderful group of volunteers to harvest [literally] tons of organic vegetables? Taking home delicious farm-fresh produce for you and your family? If so, contact SNAP-Ed Coordinator Benji Astrachan at email@example.com to learn more about the Farm Gleaning Program.
Authored by Lexi Wagor, Community Relations Manager. Special thank you to Sharah Truett for photos and information about the WSU Clallam County Extension gleaning programs!