Gleaning at Giamarese Farms
Rain--and the threat of possible thunderstorms--didn't deter a contingent of students, faculty and staff from taking part in the ancient practice of gleaning at Giamarese Farms in East Brunswick in late October.
More than 20 enthusiastic gleaners from the G. H. Cook Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, spent the morning in the fields, harvesting 60 basket of peppers in a patch that had been set aside by Jim Giamarese for this event. The green, red, yellow and multicolor peppers were in prime condition, prompting one of the participants to observe that they could have been in the produce department of Wegman's. Instead, they were destined for area food banks, including Elijahs' Promise and the Franklin Food Bank.
The practice of gleaning dates back to the Old Testament, specifically referenced in the Book of Ruth, says Giamarese. He and his wife Sue were one of the founders of Farmers Against Hunger, an organization that encourages farmers to donate late harvest produce to the needy.
Farmers Against Hunger and Rutgers Against Hunger were the sponsors of the gleaning, which was organized by the Office of Community Engagement at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS) and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES).
The event was reported extensively by the local media, including the Home News Tribune and other Gannett newspapers, the Star-Ladger, NJN television, WMBC-TV, WCTC radio and the Daily Targum, Rutgers' student-run newspaper. Dr. Larry Katz, director of Rutgers Cooperative Extension and co-director of Rutgers Against Hunger, and Professor Jack Rabin, director of farm programs for NJAES, were quoted liberally in the accounts. Chelsea Simkins, a senior at SEBS and president of the Cook Chapter of Alpha Zeta honors and service fraternity, was interviewed on camera by NJN.
Students at the event were primarily members of Rabin's sustainable agriculture class and members and alumni of Alpha Zeta.
The Star-Ledge quoted Katz as saying "It's amazing how many kids are going to school hungry in New Jersey, and that's not conducive to learning."
"He added that as part of the state university, improving the quality of life for residents is central to the organization's mission," the newspaper went on.
The Home News Tribune quoted Rabin: "This is a great experience to put the production side of our class together with the [concept] of farming being part of the community--and how you share back and forth both ways."
Rutgers Against Hunger was launched two years ago by Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick as a university-wide effort involving food drives, educational programs and cooperative programs with farmers and gardeners to supply much-needed food to the affiliates of the New Jersey Federation of Food Banks.
Farmers Against Hunger was created in 1996 as a non-profit operating year-round to link farmers and retail outlets with soup kitchens and service organizations serving the hungry. Since its inception, Farmers Against Hunger has collected and distributed more than 15 million pounds of produce, benefitting the state's neediest--children, sseniors and the working poor.
See more photos in our gallery here.