Gleaning Stories, Gleaning Change

Voices of Gleaning: July 25

Gleaning Organic Plums near Castroville


organic plum gleaning

The organic plum orchard where we gleaned is part of land that has been in the family of Shawn Conlan since the late 19th century. The family now leases much of the land, and on the way to the orchard, we drove through fields where a grower was cultivating calla lily bulbs on land leased from the Conlans. Ours was the third pass through the orchard, and finding fruit that was just ripe enough for the food banks was tough. Much of the fruit on the ground was whole, but too soft. And plums shaken down rolled into the tall grass with the already downed fruit, so it was a bit like an Easter egg hunt to find the perfect fruit to glean. Of course, lots of the over-ripe fruit got carried off by us gleaners to make jam or to cook into sauces. Yummm!

There were lots of gleaners today, and lots of good conversations. Rusten collected stories from a mother and daughter who had lived on LDS Church welfare farms near San Diego and recently moved here, three folks who had grown up in Maine on family farms, and other folks with wonderful stories. Christina talked other gleaners. Here are a few of the conversations.

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Diana Memmott and Laura and Connor Pangburn

Diana Memmott was born in Virginia, moved to Salt Lake City, and wound up in California in 1957. She lived in Fallbrook ("The Avocado Capital of the World"), where she raised her family. They had avocados, oranges, limes, and other fruit trees in their yard, and her daughter Laura picked (or picked up) fruit from the time she was two. The family was part of the LDS Church and helped out on the church's welfare farms, where there were fruits and vegetables, honey bees, an egg ranch, and a tuna cannery. The LDS Church has farms all over the country growing crops suitable to each area, all feeding into the church's extensive welfare system.

Listen to Diana's Story:

Diana's daughter Laura grew up in Fallbrook until she was 18 and headed off to college and a career as an environmental scientist. She moved up from Southern California this spring with her son Connor and her mother, following new jobs with CalTrans and the State Park Service. Her husband, a forester, soon followed to pursue his work here. Laura remembers growing up on the farm very well, and talks about it with Connor in the background. Rusten asked her mother if Laura had grown up on the LDS farms, and Laura soon chimed in. In no time, we were sharing our favorite avocado recipes.

Listen to Laura's Story:

Childhoods in Maine

Maine gleaners with Rusten

Three of the gleaners today grew up in Maine. All grew up on family farms (from a few acres to 50 acres) in the communities just north of Portland. All had wonderful stories of working in the fields and gardens, gathering berries, fishing, and bartering for what they didn't grow. Rusten had extended conversations with each of them, so we've created a separate page for their stories. They told of lit cigars handed to each child in the family to help keep the swarming mosquitoes at bay while they worked in the gardens in the evening, horse manure "Kool-Aid" mixed up and spread on the ground before planting 150 foot rows of tomatoes, and a novel design for a container to keep carrots fresh in sand through an entire winter. more ...

Listen to stories of
these Maine childhoods.

Ellen Tucker

Christina talks with Ellen

Christina Jogoleff talked to Ellen Tucker, a North Carolina native who's been in California for 11 years, long enough, she says, that when she goes back, "I don't quite fit in." Christina and Ellen shared plum recipes (including "plum catsup"), thoughts about gleaning, and about "living between worlds". The first sounds you'll hear in this lightly edited conversation are the shaking of the plum tree Ellen was gleaning with students from York School in Monterey as they found a last few squishy plums to take home.

Listen to Christina and Ellen's Conversation:

Shawn Conlan

The orchard where we gleaned was planted by a relative of Shawn Conlan less than a dozen years ago. He, his sister, and his brother own the property. All had moved away and done other things but are back on the family ranch. Shawn's managed the orchard for the past 4 years. He'd like to have Ag Against Hunger glean here again, but "maybe a little earlier when not so much is on the ground and the fruit is a little firmer," he said. Rusten asked him to describe the fruit, the orchard, and the surrounding land.

Listen to Shawn's Description:

Kiper Family and Frogs

I'd talked with the Kiper family at other gleans. They're a military family, currently in this area, but they didn't know for how much longer, so I wasn't sure when or if I'd see them again. When I saw them here in the orchard, the two girls, Calista and Victoria, and a new friend were playing with three different kinds of frogs that they'd found. I talked briefly to Renda and Troy about the gleaning, but clearly the frogs were on center stage at that moment. Beware of the childrens' shrieks of delight as you listen. (Calista Kiper is the gleaner with the basket and the big smile representing the red lettuce glean on June 20th on our Gleans page.)

Listen to the Kiper Family:

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