Mike’s Monday for April 1st, 2019




Let me first off apologize for not blogging for the past few weeks, health and job problems caused me to space it.


In the intervening days, the soil and planter box glean finally came to an end. Many people ended with some wonderful garden planters and deep rich soil to fill them. Along with that came many sore muscles, sunburns (in March if you can believe it) and even one case of heatstroke from overwork and not enough fluids. It can happen to anyone. Keep hydrated and take frequent breaks in the shade (if possible) when gleaning… even in March.


Also the Board of Directors finally was able to host a meeting after more than one last minute cancellation. At that meeting, Monica Philbrook was voted in as the new Membership Coordinator. In the coming days she will be trying to contact almost EVERY member to mast sure they are still a member in good standing. IF she calls or emails you, PLEASE have the decency to pick up the phone, or reply to her email to make sure you stay on the rolls. If she can’t contact you, you will be dropped from the Facebook group and the email lists.


And that brings me to my next topic. What does it mean to be a member in good standing?


First a little history of our organization. We started almost 10 years ago this summer. A couple of families had been hit hard by the Great Recession. Food was scarce in their households and they needed to find ways to food into their homes. Even Food For Lane County was having trouble keeping their pantry stocked back then. So, they started asking around “Hey are you going to be eating those apples on your apple tree?” Or others said, “I have way too many zucchinis in my garden, would you like to come get them?” I would even go so far as to say there might have been some dumpster diving, but don’t quote me on that (yup ~B). These families banded together to help each other out and share what they were finding as well as teaching each other canning and food preservation techniques. When they found they had too much, they brought the excess to Food For Lane County (FFLC), because they knew that they were not alone in dealing with food insecurity. 


Out of that informal group of friends grew the start of the Eugene Area Gleaners. They were trying to save their families, but they still had an altruistic streak. Taking the extra food to FFLC helped others and also allowed our fledgeling group to give donors a tax receipt. We wanted to help as many other families as they could, even if they didn’t even know them. For those of you not familiar with the concept of ALTRUISM here it is (according to Google):


It is “the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless 

concern for the well-being of others.”


“Disinterested and selfless”. Not exactly everyday words. In this context disinterested means without desire for personal gain. And selfless – concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own. Back in the early days of the group, the act of selflessly giving to others was a heady experience. It really made people feel good, and that in turn made those initial members work harder and donate more and more to FFLC. We set up our very first dropsite on Brandy’s front porch.


We’d leave some excess produce and the occasional loaves of bread on her front porch for other members who couldn’t make the gleans could still pick up a share of the glean., just like today, that part hasn’t changed. Though FFLC did not want us under their umbrella and said they did not partner with gleaning groups, every once is a while, FFLC would pass some of their excess to our group. Sometimes rice, or lentils, and sometimes it was the truly odd, like a 5 gallon bucket of souvlaki marinade, a pallet of onions, or 10 cases of Torani “Sweet Heat” syrup. It was always given with the expressed caveat that it was NOT to be sold or bartered. 


Well, some of Brandy’s neighbors at the time took a couple of bottles of that Sweet Heat that had been set out for members off her porch and put it up for sale on Facebook. Someone in our group saw the post and alerted Brandy, who confronted the neighbors. When that was fruitless, she contacted FFLC. Long story short, the Eugene Area Gleaners were banned from doing business with FFLC because of the actions of some non-members greed and selfishness, actions which are the exact opposite of altruism. If you’re interested in the longer story, you can search “FFLC” in the Facebook group.


So the basis for our entire ethos was tested, and it has been tested ever since. Over the years, I’m sad to say, that ethos has eroded. We no longer donate to FFLC and instead pass the largess on to other members in the group. The basic division of the “spoils” hasn’t changed, ½ still goes to the members who conducted the glean, but the other ½ goes to our drop sites for other members to take. The gleans have gotten larger and more numerous. 1500 pound apple gleans are not unheard of. 500# blueberry gleans. 2600# gleans of sweet corn.


With our standard split some gleaners take home more than their household can possibly use. So they give some away to friends, which is technically against the rules, but then they join the group to get in on more stuff. They learn of the drop sites and the bread gleans and stop to pick up bread. Other people then learn of the bread sites and they pick up bread, but never join. Some of them NEED the bread and that’s cool. But others don’t have an existential need for it. They can easily go to the store and buy a loaf of bread. 


Many of these same MEMBERS don’t even show up for gleans. They don’t help out in any way. Every time we have a “group buy” we get a spike in new members that want in on that buy, whether it be peaches, beef, tuna or whatever. And then we never see or hear from them again until the next buy. But they’re on the FB group, or on the email list and so they know when they can pick up free bread too.


Lately, people have practically gone to war over bread because we are now getting some PRIMO day-old. Gluten Free. Organic. Artisan. Birthday cakes. Little Debbie’s!!!  This group has gone from being altruistic to selfish and greedy. The Board has seen the shift and has struggled to address it. To know the full extent of the problem we need metrics. We have the numbers from the fruit and vegetable gleans and the group buys. But we have not been able to get numbers from the drop site hosts and transporters. They refuse to do it, siting it “would take too much time” to simply count the bread items as they put them into their vehicle or onto their porch. Others just flat out refuse without explanation.