Meet Deborah Berger, Neighborhood Harvest Leader

GleanSLO trained a dozen Neighborhood Harvest Leaders earlier this year to lead small gleans in their neighborhoods. During these summer months, stone fruit is ripening early… and all at once… all over the county. We are averaging over 10 gleans/week! With minimal support from staff, Neighborhood Harvest Leaders take charge of the small gleans, gather the equipment they need, meet a handful of other volunteers and make sure everyone is safe and having fun while picking the extra fruit. They deliver the rescued produce to a nearby food pantry.

GleanSLO staff relies heavily on the dedication of these Neighborhood Harvest Leaders to get the job done! Here’s a word from Deborah Berger:


1. Why are you interested in gleaning?

“Because I love to cook with fresh produce and eat lots of fresh fruit, and I am aware that not everybody can afford these. I don’t like any kind of wasting and I am happy to contribute to honoring nature’s abundance.”

2. How did you first make contact with GleanSLO?

“Right after I moved from Germany to the USA I wanted to do some volunteer work in order to meet people and be of use for the community, a friend told me about GleanSLO and I signed up on the website and became a gleaner.”

3. What is your favorite part about neighborhood harvests?

“To see different backyards, there’s so much beauty and so much hard work to be admired and people who donate are grateful to see their produce being used for a good cause.”

4. How does gleaning make you feel?

“I love the physical work and that it lasts only 2 or 3 hours, I love being connected to earth and plants and the other gleaners – there are so many interesting people among gleaners, and it’s wonderful to meet them again at another glean.”

5. Have you ever been at a distribution or seen the food you picked be received by a food pantry or hungry family? What was that like?

“I was delivering food to 2 different places, AIDS Support Network and Salvation Army, and it feels good to be appreciated and welcomed by those who distribute the food to hungry people.”

6. Anything else you’d like to share?

“I like the organisation of GleanSLO, the ease and the friendly connections with everybody I’ve met so far. There’s a lot of smiles and laughter to be seen and heard.”

If you would like to become a Neighborhood Harvest Leader, we’ll be training the next group of NHL’s on Saturday, August 23rd. Save the date and stay tuned for more details!

Meet Tom Ikeda, a third generation farmer and GleanSLO partner

This month’s interview is with a very significant partner of GleanSLO, Tom Ikeda, a local farmer, who has offered his time, his knowledge and expertise, and has networked for GleanSLO in countless ways.

“My name is Tom Ikeda.  I am a third generation farmer in the Arroyo Grande Valley and my family farms over 800 acres of assorted vegetables as well as citrus and avocados.  I am also the current president of Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange (POVE), a cooling, shipping and sales cooperative.  I first became associated with GleanSLO about 4 years ago after my son went to the Salinas with a group of students from Mission Colllege Prep High School (MCP) to glean strawberries for a group called Ag Against Hunger.   After that trip, I was contacted by Stephanie Buresh from MCP to try to set up a similar organization here in SLO County.  I had heard about GleanSLO and suggested that instead of starting a new organization from scratch, we try to partner with them.  Contact was made in the fall of2010 and after a few organizational meetings, a partnership was formed.  That Spring, we had our first “trial” glean.  The next school year, we set up 4-5 gleans in the Fall and another 4-5 in the Spring and have done the same in the past 2 school years as well.  This partnership has helped to bring GleanSLO out to larger commercial farms and to increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables going to the Food Bank.”

Tom has influenced hundreds of high school students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to work in a field. Students have gained an appreciation for farmers, farm workers, our local food system and the needs of food insecure in our local community.

Tom Ikeda and Dan SuttonAfter a food safety presentation, Tom Ikeda with Dan Sutton, Manager of POVE, demonstrate how to harvest kale at a glean in October 2013. Students gleaned nearly 1,000 pounds of kale in less than 2 hours.


Bike Breakfast with GleanSLO and Central Coast Grown

GleanSLO had the pleasure of co-hosting a Bike Breakfast with Central Coast Grown on May 20th.  Together we celebrated local, homemade and homegrown food, we celebrated folks on bikes, enjoying a healthy lifestyle in a beautiful area, and we celebrated the good work being done in our community by both nonprofits… working to strengthen our local farming industry, improve our food system, and feed those in need with local fruits and vegetables.



Can’t BEET the fun at Talley Farms!

The Talley family, owners of Talley Farms, have always been invested in the well-being of our community. Their generosity is truly overwhelming. Over the past month, GleanSLO brought several groups of students and community members out to glean nearly 5,000 pounds of beets! Students from Liberty High School in Paso Robles and Mission College Prep High School in SLO were two of the groups who labored in the fields. And we mean it when we say “labored,” they have the blisters to prove it! GleanSLO is grateful for the many people that came together to make these gleans possible.

Additional thanks to Connie Tran at KSBY for featuring a story about GleanSLO during one of the beet gleans:

Click to watch the GleanSLO beet glean featured on KSBY

Click to watch the GleanSLO beet glean featured on KSBY

Beet glean at Talley Farm 14036549937_97ceebc961_b 14291600062_1680ed3437_z 14106921428_f42cd90af2_z 14107030627_6191a8e673_b 14106922348_f54cd9bf0b_b 14238630675_81d7b57002_b

Fruit Drive Model is a HUGE Success!

SLO High School

Students collected over 700 pounds of fruit at their first Fruit Drive hosted by the FFA on May 20th!! Special thanks to Caitlin Stanton, Community Service Chair of SLO FFA, and the many SLO High students and families that worked hard to collect produce from their neighborhoods to donate to the Food Bank! 14247531155_53c5032446_b14224384116_41daa75330_b

SLO High students collect neighborhood fruit!

SLO High students collect neighborhood fruit!

Sinsheimer Elementary

Students in the Club Star program at Sinsheimer Elementary collected nearly 100 pounds of fruit from neighbors trees on May 14th! The students made their own flyers which they distributed, along with bags to neighbors who have fruit trees. Check out their big haul!

Sinsheimer Elementary students collect neighborhood fruit!

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Bellevue-Sante Fe Charter School

The Bellevue students collected 172 pounds of delicious produce which included kale, potatoes, lemons, oranges and grapefruits! This locally grown food will be distributed to a handful of the the 44,000 neighbors in need in our county. Thanks to the students of Bellevue for being a part of GleanSLO’s efforts to rescue nature’s bounty for the benefit of our community.

Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter School Fruit Drive 
Special thanks to all of the school administration, teachers and staff who helped inspire the students and remind parents about the Fruit Drives!  Bravo!




Asian Citrus Psyllid found locally

The first case of Asian Citrus Psyllid has been found in Arroyo Grande. The County Department of Agriculture has issued a quarantine with a 5 mile radius around the home with the discovered pest. (84 square miles!)

How will this affect our gleaning activities?

The pest is found on the leaves and stems of the trees, not the fruit. So we will still be able to harvest in the quarantined area, but absolutely no green matter can leave the harvest site… Short stems, no leaves, no branches. All pruners will be washed in a bleach solution after harvesting. More info can be found here.

Thanks for helping us be cautious with this problem. The Asian Citrus Psyllid can carry a disease called Huanglongbing (HLB) that will kill citrus trees. There is no known cure for HLB, the health of the tree will continue to decline until it dies. Currently, in SLO County, the Asian Citrus Psyllid pest (which carries HLB) has been found in the area, but not the HLB disease. Let’s help keep it that way!

Fruit Drives – a new kind a food drive with a fruity twist

We have all heard about a Food Drive… but a Fruit Drive? Have you ever heard of such a thing? In our region of such abundance and year round edible landscapes galore, we are making Fruit Drives the new norm. _MG_0003Early this year, a passionate group of parents, GleanSLO volunteers and staff came together to give the Fruit Drive idea legs. We loved the concept of reaching out to students, parents and the larger community to pick ripe produce from neighborhood trees to bring to school, where we can collect it for distribution to hungry families. To ensure the Fruit Drive model would become a sustainable program, the group decided to invest the time into creating something replicable, something that would be easy for any parent, student or teacher to implement in their own school, church or civic group. This talented group of volunteers developed a Fruit Drive Kit that is now being used in schools across San Luis Obispo. Read on to learn more…

Our experience with students has shown that the act of collecting fruit for distribution can be an extremely powerful experience, building empathy and connection between students and families in less fortunate circumstances. In addition, the process of sharing food grown in local areas intensifies neighborhood associations between students, their parents, school faculty and the immediate community.

As part of the program we have provided each school with a ‘Fruit Drive Kit’ that will help the collection run more smoothly. The Fruit Drive Kit contains:

  1. One or more banners reminding students and parents to bring in produce, to be hung during Fruit Week.
  2. Two signs: “Our school feeds hungry families” and stakes to display on school property.Sienna small

    3. Two or more Neighborhood Lawn Signs “My garden feeds hungry families” for students and families to see and use to encourage participation. We will provide lawn signs to every home that donates fruit.

    4. A Reproducible Neighborhood Flyer for students and their parents to distribute to neighbors if needed.

    5. A Reproducible Parent Flyer explaining the Fruit Drive and the collection process.

    Thank you for working with GleanSLO and the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County to feed hungry families in your community. 

    For more information or to request a Fruit Drive Kit for your school or group, please email or call 805-835-3750.



    School Fruit Drive Collage 3

    GleanSLO would like to thank the many talented volunteers who have been a part of the development of this project, and who continue to support its growth: Carolyn, Evan, Jahan, Jeanine, Johanna, Lucy, Mavis, Michelle, Olivia, Sienna, and Stephanie.

    Thanks to the schools who have participated in the Fruit Drive program: Bishop’s Peak/Teach Elementary, Hawthorn, Laguna, Pacheco, Sinscheimer, and SLO High!

    Photo credits: Carolyn Eicher

Local Business Promega Biosciences gets Creative with Produce!

In 2013 Promega Biosciences Inc. of San Luis Obispo held their first Produce Swap! Employees brought in their homegrown produce, nuts, eggs and canned goods to trade or ‘purchase.’ The money from the ‘purchases’ were collected, matched by PBI and donated to GleanSLO at the end of the season. The total of their donation was $446! Thanks for your innovative model to keep our community healthy and thriving!

Pictured here: Dave Good, Jeanine Lacore, Lizz Mahoney and Corey Meek. Photo credit: Carolyn Eicher

Bringing the community together, in more ways than can be counted

By Caroline Ginsberg, first GleanSLO employee

 caroline_avocados blog

One of my most vivid memories upon arriving in SLO was the beautiful, incredibly fruitful orange tree that stood on the side of my little home.  Being from Maine, I couldn’t get over the amazing taste of the oranges and their abundance!  Every meal for months involved some of those oranges, or lemons from my neighbor or persimmons from my landlord… what bounty!  I remember taking walks around the neighborhood and being shocked by how much fruit was right in our backyards and yet often falling to the ground in waste.  I met Carolyn Eicher through SLO Grown Kids and began to feel the momentum growing in my relatively new community around the idea of gleaning and what this could look like for SLO.  Many meetings were held, ideas were thrown around, research was done, little gleans were experimented with… and then GleanSLO was birthed.  What a gift to have been witness to that process.

With the help and encouragement of many in the community, I applied for an Americorps position in 2011 with my time split between GleanSLO and the Food Bank.  I have so many fond memories of those days and driving the Food Bank truck along HWY 1 to gleans throughout the county.  From the farmers I met who opened their fields, to the dedicated volunteers who came glean after glean, the people and heart behind GleanSLO never ceased to amaze me.

When I was back visiting SLO this fall, I was lucky enough to attend a strawberry glean and see how much GleanSLO has grown and yet has been able to maintain its community-centered mission and mentality.  I have no doubt that GleanSLO will be a fixture in SLO for years to come bringing the community together in more ways than can be counted.