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Don't Fear the Reapers

Linda A. Cicero

U-PICK U: Students pluck loquats from a tree in the main Quad.

By Ryan Eshoff

If you've been on campus on a Friday afternoon lately, you may have witnessed something odd: students swinging what look to be lacrosse sticks at trees. In fact, the sticks are for picking fruit, and the students likely members of the Stanford Gleaners. The group, which started in 2009, carries official club designation and has the University's full support when it comes to harvesting fruit from the dozens of edible species of trees that dot the campus.

The number of pickers, much like the fruit itself, varies from week to week and season to season, according to club co-presidents Gabriela Leslie, '14, and Mary Chambers, '15. "Some want to enjoy the fresh air, and just relax and have a good time with a seasonal atmosphere," says Chambers, while others "see the bigger picture and want to come and participate in something that has a serious meaning."

The majority of the fruit collected during the weekly "glean" is donated to the Stanford Project On Hunger (SPOON), which in turn distributes it within the local community. Prior to its partnership with SPOON, the Gleaning Project worked with The Free Farm, a community garden in San Francisco that provides produce to low-income individuals. The Free Farm was started in part by Page Chamberlain, a Stanford professor in the School of Earth Sciences who was also instrumental in the genesis of the Gleaning Project.

Most Stanford students don't know the extent of the bounty that's available to them; or at least, they may not be aware that it's ripe for the picking. "Without the Gleaners, [the fruit] would just sit there and rot," Leslie says. Both she and Chambers express a sense of satisfaction in being a part of "something bigger"—an increasing awareness of, and desire for, sustainable eating, as well as food and agricultural policy. "I do think there is a nationwide gleaning movement, [with] people like us who see it as a great and worthwhile hobby," she says.

"It's really growing."

Ryan Eshoff, MA '13, is an intern at the Los Angeles Times.

View Stanford Gleaning Project in a larger map

Comments (1)

  • Dr. Melissa Crouch Chang

    #72 1993 right outside my window - wow, that was a long time ago!

    Posted by Dr. Melissa Crouch Chang on Aug 10, 2013 6:06 PM


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