Gleaning Stories, Gleaning Change

Voices of Gleaning: June 6

Voices from the June 6 Glean


may 16 glean

The field today was one of Valley Pride's just south of Salinas. We had more folks than there were knives and crates, so teamwork and division of labor were the order of the day. A mild day, with overcast sky turning sunny as we cut, cleaned, and carried the iceberg lettuce heads. With so many working, it wasn't much over an hour and a half after we had all gone into the field before the 16 big bins on the truck were full and we were free to glean lettuce to take home for ourselves.

Today kicked off gleaning for Monterey County high schools. Everett Alvarez HS in Salinas hosted a barbecue after the glean and many students came to complete community service hours, activity credits, or just to do something worthwhile. Other students came from high schools from Watsonville to Monterey. Further afield, Archbishop Mitty HS in San Jose sent 24 students and 4 staff down as part of their 10-day immersion trip in their Ethics, Culture, and Justice class. Groups came from United Methodist Church and other area churches, and lots of families and individuals came to help out.

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Archbishop Mitty HS, San Jose

A group of 24 students and 4 teachers were gleaning as part of a 10-day immersion trip capping a junior year religion class on social justice. The students were obviously committed to social justice and were finding the trip both valuable hands-on experience that brought their coursework to life and a real bonding experience among themselves. Here are some of their voices talking about the trip and their plans to make social justice issues part of their lives.

Everett Alvarez HS, Salinas

Several of the students were completing service hours or activity credits. Most had never been in the fields, though some had family who had been field workers and were here to feel what that kind of work was like. One told me that gleaning was hard, but at least one of their teachers was doing all the heavy carrying for them. Such dedication! Here's a collage of some of their voices.

Isabel & Francisca Corpus

Isabel and Francisca are daughter and mother. Isabel had come to the May 16th glean with friends from her high school. She came to the glean partly to experience what her mother and father had experienced while they were farmworkers. To her surprise and that of her mother, Isabel liked gleaning. Today she brought her mother gleaning with her. They talked about their different experiences of being in the field, the daughter as a gleaner on a Saturday morning, the mother as a worker stooping long days for little money. They talked about what worker pay should be and about how each of them sees food in the store differently because of their experiences in the fields. more ...

Listen to mother and daughter compare experiences in a wide-ranging conversation.

The Hat Man and United Methodist Church, Salinas

Paul Aschenbrenner caught my eye in the field because his otherwise sensible broad-brimmed field hat sported a huge pair of Mickey Mouse ears. Paul, 72, said he'd been volunteering at Dorothy's Kitchen for at least 25 years and "knew what was needed." Now he's added gleaning to his list of activites. This is his third time out, all gleaning lettuce, though he's hoping for something else soon. I asked Paul about his childhood experience setting out smudge pots in his father's orange groves in Southern California and about the ears he laughingly calls "satellite receivers."

There were about a dozen other United Methodist Church gleaners this morning. They seemed to be having a good time, working together, teasing each other.

The Davis Family

When I approached what looked like a family of 3 at the close of the glean, I assumed they had come with one of the church or other groups. But they said they'd come on their own after seeing a notice about the glean in the newspaper. The father was a Navy aviator who had never had any experience working in a field. The mother grew up on a farm with horses and other animals. Looking over the field we'd gleaned and noting that we'd barely made a dent in the the amount of lettuce there, she said she wished she could bring the horses in here to eat their fill. Listen to the family talk about why they glean and how eye-opening it was for all of them to see the amount of wasted food in the field.

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