Philip Dunn picks grapefruit at a home orchard in La Mesa. The property owners didn't want the fruit, so Dunn and a small group of volunteers showed up with boxes and bags, hauled away what they could and donated it to the food pantry at the International Rescue Committee.
While reading the following article, I realized I was a gleaner when I was a kid but did not know it.
Between the ages of 5-9, we lived in an unincorporated neighborhood on Long Island called Lakeview (part of the Malverne school district). I was also a Victory Gardener during that time.
There was a very large fenced in home near us we called the Hills Estate. I can vividly remember going there by myself and shouting through the fence "Hey mister Hill, any apples today?” My shouting did not always get an answer but often the gardener, who whoever he was (was it Mr. Hill?), would come to the gate, let me in and I would pick apples off the ground and low branches. My mother made many apple pies from the gleaned fruit and canned them as I recall.
Today the estate is public property called the Tanglewood Preserve and the house is the Center for Science Teaching and Learning. The property has a pond that had swans living by it when I was a kid. I can see them swimming in my minds eye like it was yesterday.
Fast forward to more recent times. I lived in San Diego for 16 years until 2007 when I returned to New York. My knees probably would not allow it but with new knees, I would surely be out and about with the gleaners mentioned in the article.
San Diego County is a gleaner’s cornucopia. It might be the gleaner’s capitol of the country. Even though much of San Diego County is now urbanized, it has a rich agricultural history and is still an agricultural powerhouse. It would be a ton of fun to glean in this warm, sunshine filled area. Oh my, why did I leave?
Hey mister Hill!
On a bicycle tour through uptown neighborhoods last year, Philip Dunn kept noticing wasted citrus — oranges and lemons that had fallen off trees in people's yards only to rot on the ground.
After a little research, he learned no organized groups picked the fruit so it wouldn't go to waste. So he decided to do it himself.
Since last summer, Dunn has coordinated a small but growing corps of food activist volunteers. They call themselves urban gleaners, and they scour San Diego neighborhoods, peering over fences and knocking on doors in search of residents willing to let them haul their fruit away to local food pantries, where it's usually easier to stock up on day-old bread and dented canned food than fresh produce.