The Family of Woodstock, the Rondout Valley Growers Association (RVGA) and UlsterCorps has teamed up to glean apples for food pantries in order to provide food that otherwise would be wasted.
Starting September 11 in Highland on a 22-acre farm located on the Illinois Mountain Range, volunteers came to assist in the apple gleaning process. Apple gleaning is done to collect leftover apples from trees during the harvest season that otherwise would be wasted and not utilized to help the community.
Senior Extension Associate Peter Jentsch from the Cornell Laboratory located in Highland, focuses his research on pest management tools and disease prevention of vegetables, grapes, small fruit and pome fruit.
At the start of the event, Jentsch explained that the volunteers would harvest apples that have not been sprayed with pesticides in two months, therefore leaving no residue on the fruit. In addition, this specific block of crimson crisp apples encompass variations in their design that make them resistant to some diseases.
“No pesticides make the apples more sustainable as we try to grow fruit with less inputs,” Jentsch said.
Administrative Assistant of the laboratory, Peggy Kent, describes these events as a “concerted effort to get multiple groups in to get food into the hands of people who need it.”
On every Tuesday in September from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., volunteers can register to come assist in the gleaning efforts by calling or texting 845-481-0331 or emailing email@example.com. Due to the pandemic, there is a limit of 15 volunteers per shift and each volunteer must complete a health assessment form before arriving.
Diane Sadowy, UlsterCorps board member, hasn’t volunteered previously at this farm but wants to spend her time volunteering as there aren’t as many opportunities due to COVID-19. “What we’re doing here is very valuable,” she said.
Anna Rice-Yasff, who volunteers for UlsterCorps takes on the same sentiment. She brought along her two children as they had gleaned blueberries together in the past.
“It is so important to help provide for food pantries and it is really fun and nice to see the different farms,” Rice-Yasff said. “I get super excited as we’re helping keep food from going to waste.”
Family of Woodstock member Kevin Rowe says that these events are very important as they try to give out as much fresh food as possible to food pantries across Ulster County.
“Sometimes if there is an abundance we will do a processing, where we cook [the apples] to make tomato sauce and applesauce, freeze it and give it out in the winter,” Rowe said. “Pre-COVID more people would come but now since we limit to keep everyone safe, we try to get through most of the produce as fast as we can.”
According to the RVGA’s website, 66 percent of people in Ulster County fall below the 200 percent poverty threshold for Nutrition Assistance Programs. Through the Farm to Food Pantry Program, food that is donated from local farms is then distributed to food pantries and soup kitchens in Ulster County.
Overall their goal of this program, as well as the volunteer gleaning events, is to “increase access to local food in food deserts and areas of poverty.”