OLD BRIDGE – Volunteers pulled on their gloves and maneuvered through the 24-acre fields of Hauser Hill Farms to glean apples, Napa cabbage and rainbow swiss chard, all for a good cause.
“Last year, because of [COVID-19] and economic hardship, we moved 2.6 million pounds of food to 87 feeding organizations across the State of New Jersey [which is] about 74% more than we have done in the past year,” said Alfred Murray, executive director of the New Jersey Agricultural Society. “It shows you the need that is out there.”
Murray said gleaning – a collection of leftover crops from farmers fields after being commercially harvested to reduce waste – can be done year-round.
“The beauty of New Jersey is the variety of the crop,” he said.
John Midge Hauser, whose farm on Ticetown Road has been in his family for 150 years, has been a member of the New Jersey Farm Bureau since 1978 and is also a member of the New Jersey Agricultural Society. He said New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) approached him to host his annual gleaning event at his farm on Oct. 9.
“We decided to give it a whirl,” he said.
Coughlin said “gleaning is not only fun, it’s doing something nice for somebody else and it makes a difference.
“This is our fourth year,” he said, adding that gleaning events are a natural extension of his office’s continuous push to combat food insecurities.
Pete Furey, executive director of the New Jersey Farm Bureau, said they are happy to put gleaning events together through New Jersey Agricultural Society’s non-profit program Farmers Against Hunger.
“Gleaning is not only about food to give to food banks, but also the concept everybody needs to keep aware that we have people in society that have different food situations,” he said.
The Farmers Against Hunger program is in its 25th year. The program has 1,200 volunteers across the state they can call on.
Among the volunteers on Oct. 9 included a student organization from Rutgers University – Rutgers Against Hunger. Bobby Reisler, a senior, said their group helps out at different events from gleaning events to soup kitchens.
All the produce collected at Hauser Hill Farms were donated to food pantries within Middlesex County.