Volunteer Spotlight: Mike Constable, Neighborhood Harvest Leader

“It’s cool to see the ‘fruits’ of our labor.”

Interview by Carolyn Eicher

Mike with his mom, Laurie, gleaning avocados. Photo credit: Carolyn Eicher

Mike with his mom, Laurie, gleaning avocados. Photo credit: Carolyn Eicher

Mike Constable is a Cal Poly graduate who soon begins training with the Air National Guard as a pilot to fly transport planes. Since early 2013, Mike has volunteered with GleanSLO, bringing enthusiasm, a great attitude and muscle! This year he chose to become a Neighborhood Harvest Leader and lead his own local gleans. We are pleased to share an interview with Mike here and want to thank him for his energy and dedication to GleanSLO!

GS: Please tell us about yourself:

I’ve enjoyed the awesomeness the central coast has to offer over the last six years. During and after school at Cal Poly, I worked at the San Luis Obispo Airport. As a Line Service Technician I fueled planes and aided arrivals/departures. I graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in Construction Management and continued to pursue my dream of flying. I was selected to attend Air Force Pilot Training and I’m currently awaiting training to begin later this fall.

GS: How did you find out about GleanSLO?

I actually just googled ‘San Luis Obispo Volunteering’ and stumbled across the GleanSLO webpage which worked very well at organizing gleans.

GS: What is your favorite part of gleaning?

I have two favorite parts. First, driving out to glean spectacular farms/locations on the central coast. The scenery around these farms is truly remarkable. Second, dropping off gleaned food to charities, agencies and food pantries. The smiles and thank you’s we received from distributors of gleaned food really made me feel like I helped someone out. It’s cool to see the ‘fruit’ of our labor. 

GS: Any memorable stories/farms/connections you’ve made through GleanSLO?

Getting recognized multiple times as a ‘gleaner’ at the grocery store always gave me a chuckle. I also had fun getting to know the other volunteers. Regardless of age or background, our common interests always insured we were volunteering among friends. I remember showing up late to my first glean at an orange orchard in Nipomo due to a dead car battery. From then on I was hooked and much more punctual.


Meet Vince Petrie!

Vince Petrie, a Neighborhood Harvest Leader

Vince started volunteering with GleanSLO at the beginning of 2013. At that time he fearlessly approached many of his neighbors to ask if they’d like to donate their excess fruit. This is when we had some of our FIRST Neighborhood-wide Collections! Now Vince is a seasoned Neighborhood Harvest Leader. Thanks for all or your great ideas, Vince!  Keep ‘em coming!


Vince1. Why are you interested in gleaning?

I’m a scrounger by nature.  I like to take things that other people don’t want and find a use for them, giving them a second life.  Before I found GleanSLO, as I would walk around my neighborhood I was bothered by all the fruit that was falling on the ground and rotting.  I thought that there must be a way to save this fruit.  I thought about starting a neighborhood produce exchange.  That was just about the time I found out about GleanSLO.  So I called them and volunteered.

2. How did you first make contact with GleanSLO?

I saw a GleanSLO flyer somewhere, can’t remember where.  So I called the number on the flyer and took it from there.

3. What is your favorite part about neighborhood harvests? 

My favorite part is participating in a group activity with others who share my enthusiasm for the task at hand.  I tend to be more of a loner, not fond of team or group activities.  But I’ve found that gleaning is an exception for me.

4. How does gleaning make you feel?

Gleaning gives me great satisfaction, and here’s why.  The corporate food industry has made it its mission to sell us cheap, unhealthy food (or food-like products) that maximize their profits, while paying lip service to our health.  Meanwhile, they demand and get government subsidies from self-serving politicians.  When I glean, I’m helping to provide healthy food, at no cost, to people who need it but can’t afford grocery store prices.  Gleaning completely bypasses corporations and government while contributing to the betterment of our community.  That makes me very happy.


Rescuing Avocados from Drought

Local farmer’s well runs dry – GleanSLO salvages undersized fruit


Avocado farmer Rick Saurwein of Casa Milagro has decided to “stump” his drying, drought ravaged trees. Thousands of branches full of ripe, undersized fruit have been cut down. But before the fruit could rot he called GleanSLO to pick what is salvageable and donate it to the Food Bank.

“My family is very active at Rock Harbor Christian Fellowship and see the value that the Food Bank & GleanSLO provides every week at our Saturday food distribution and the Monday meals that are served at the Vet’s Hall.  We’re very grateful for their service to the community and pleased that we can share the fruit we have with those who need it,” said Rick.

Rick Saurwein will not be able to harvest a new crop for three to four years depending on the weather this fall and if the aquifer fills to an adequate level to support the trees.

GleanSLO volunteers harvested more than 5,200 pounds of avocados from Casa Milagro and donated 214 volunteer hours to salvage the fruit.

More coverage on this story:



San Luis Obispo Tribune

Firstfruits Farm, bringing nature’s abundance to the people

GleanSLO has a unique opportunity to partner with a special farm. Typically GleanSLO gathers the excess, the unharvested, the not-so-pretty looking produce and donates it to our neighbors in need. Firstfruits Farm is different. It is a 100% volunteer run effort, operating on donations of everything from seed to compost. They grow perfect, organic produce FOR our neighbors in need. Firstfruits Farm donates the first pick, not the seconds. The farm is managed under the skilled hand of Darin Laity. Produce is grown and harvested by loving volunteers coming from various sources including Trinity Church, Grace Church and GleanSLO. Veggies are distributed at God’s Storehouse at Grace Church as well as several other food pantries.


14788227605_b54d6d683d_zWe asked Jon Medlock, pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church to share his thoughts about the farm:


“Firstfruits Farm is a small but growing little farm, tucked away behind the SLO airport off of Davenport Creek Road. Started in 2013 by Trinity Presbyterian Church in SLO, Firstfruits Farm borrows its name from the bible.  In the Old Testament, God instructed his people to offer the firstfruits of their harvest as an act of thanksgiving and gratitude. In this spirit, Trinity wants to offer our best to the people of this city, and the farm is our effort make top quality, organically grown vegetables available to residents of our city who cannot easily afford healthy, fresh food. 

 Photo May 24, 10 59 30 AM

We do this for a number of reasons: We believe God created all people in his image, with dignity and worth. We believe that our bodies matter as much as our souls. We believe that access to healthy food is a matter of basic justice. We believe that God is graciously renewing this broken world, and that when we pursue healing and restoration, we are acting in faith that God will bring perfect healing and restoration one day. We also believe, along with Wendell Berry that “Christian agriculture [is] formed upon the understanding that it is sinful for people to misuse or destroy what they did not make. The Creation is a unique, irreplaceable gift, therefore to be used with humility, respect, and skill.” In short, we support and work with this farm because of our Christian convictions. 



If you are interested in helping us serve alongside our neighbors in this way, we would love to have you join us. We harvest and do basic farm maintenance Wednesday and Saturday mornings at 9:00. In addition we have evening harvests on Fridays at 6:00. We are located off of just east of the intersection of Davenport Creek and Serpa Ranch Roads in SLO.”

Firstfruits Farm is a special place, an ideal volunteer opportunity for families. You’ll find a sandbox, picnic tables, wildflower and native bee garden and 2 acres of assorted organic veggies – cucumbers, bell peppers, chard, several varieties of kale, herbs, corn, tomatoes, melons, squash, eggplant, and a small orchard full of ancient varieties of fruit trees!


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.