Gleaning Coordinator for Clallam County
Sharah is the ‘Queen of Glean’, although she lovingly coins herself the ‘Gleaning Grump’. Sharah is keen on involvement with food access and she was thrilled when (the third time she applied), she got the yearlong Americorps intern position as Gleaning Coordinator / Farm to Food Pantry lead. She has since moved into being a WSU Extension employee.
In Sharah’s time as a the Gleaning Coordinator she has leveled up the program. She brought in a “foodie” element, sharing recipes and calling out local varieties of fruits and vegetables so the public can reconnect with them. She also brought the newsletter up to speed with the newer tech that is available today.
When she came to the position, it had been held by many coordinators, each having brought different organizational styles. The program hadn’t had a chance to build a solid foundation due to various ups and downs with funding. She tells me in the beginning there were piles of papers, lots of notes written on the back of envelopes, some great graphics and a wonderful network of gleaners and gleanees to start from. She started creating speadsheets and streamlining the riff raff.
Before joining the Gleaning Program, Sharah spent half the year as a farmhand and the other half as a park ranger. It turned out that being a park ranger full-time had her indoors more than she liked, so she looked to farming to balance out her interests. It was through working at Nash’s Organic Produce that she realized her true passion was local food and farms. She has a degree in Environmental Science from Humboldt State College, but suddenly wished she had studied agriculture.
Here is a seasonal look at the Gleaning Coordinator activities. Winter is a time of organizing data, the spring comes with setting up farm to food pantry contracts, food contracts between local farmers and the food banks, in May and June the gleaning starts to pick up and then the farmer contracts wrap up in the fall. All the while she is fielding contacts from homeowners, farms and volunteers while gleaning is happening.
Sharah explained that she has a “very big spreadsheet” that lists all the homeowners who have fruit to glean, it shows what they have and when it ripens. In spring she starts calling them and checking in. All leading to the general list of what is available and where getting clearer for the year.
When homeowners confirm they have a fruit or vegetable that needs gleaning, that info is put out in the newsletter. Next step, volunteer gleaners call Sharah and she puts them in contact with homeowners. The volunteers communicate directly with homeowners to set up the times and details. Sharah doesn’t need to attend most gleans, she just arranges them.
The gleaners are asked to donate a large part of what they glean to folks in need. This can be food banks, senior centers, and/or the Boys and Girls Club.
Sharah appreciates how gleaning combines her interest in “free things, good food, being outside, and I like how it increases neighborliness.”
She shares that both of her grandparents were big vegetable gardeners and they babysat her for significant periods of her life. She spoke of beautiful periods of her life in their ornamental food forests. “Nana taught us what to eat and when it was ripe. Hopefully gleaning will inspire people to take kids out and show them that this can be a beautiful childhood experience.”
Sharah explained that many families do gleanings because you can choose your level of participation. A family can come to one glean or many, they schedule it. At gleans kids have the opportunity to be participating in a community service, this is a great way for families to express their values. It is a direct way for kids to have a hands-on experience in learning how to give to people in need in our community.
Lastly Sharah opened up about how much she loves her coworkers and being in an office where there are many other women and moms. She said, “It was a nice place to transition into being a mom.”
Thank you for all the great work you are doing Sharah!
To learn more about the Gleaning Program you can contact Sharah at email@example.com