Gleaning program puts garden surplus on tables, helps fight food insecurity in Hancock County

Posted Aug. 21, 2014, at 3:40 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 21, 2014, at 3:57 p.m.

MOUNT DESERT, Maine – The sun sets at the Beech Hill Farm as Hannah Semler carries the last crate of vegetables to her van. The summer squash, cucumbers, parsley and chard she carries may have been destined for the compost. Instead, it will help feed those in need in Hancock County.

At small farms, this is the time of year when there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to harvest and sell everything they grow. Lots of perfectly good, highly nutritional produce ends up getting tilled into the soil or fed to the chickens and pigs. And that’s a shame, especially in a county that has one of the highest levels of poverty in Maine.

According to a recent government report, the problem with hunger in the United States is not a lack of food: It’s getting the food that’s available to the people who need it.

That’s where folks like Hannah Semler come in. The Blue Hill native is the coordinator for Healthy Acadia’s gleaning initiative. Through a partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, she works with teams of volunteers who gather the surplus from about 20 farms and distribute it to food pantries and homeless shelters.

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Semler estimates the gleaning program will harvest about 20,000 pounds of vegetables this year.

“It’s all about feeding the community,” she said.

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