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Nita Kurmins Gilson ProduceGood
Nita Kurmins Gilson, executive director of ProduceGood, has collected pints of blueberries ready to be distributed to local food banks. Photo courtesy of Nita Kurmins Gilson
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Jano’s Garden: How to ‘Produce Good’ in San Diego County

During this time of giving and receiving it may seem presumptuous to ask anyone to give more.

But in a time when 1 in 5 San Diegans is food insecure, and 40% of all food in the United States goes to waste, a number of non-profit groups have taken it upon themselves to collect and distribute food in the San Diego area.

With a plethora of fruit trees bearing fruit all year round, ProduceGood has taken on the task of collecting, donating and sharing thousands of pounds of citrus, avocadoes, apples, grapes and berries in the county. 

“By sourcing and harvesting the excess bounty in the county and creating access for those in need, we are solving the problem of hunger and waste in one sweet step,” said Nita Kurmins Gilson, executive director of ProduceGood. “With the help of our volunteers, each week we connect the source of excess produce with the need for food.

“Our volunteers glean over 4000 pounds of produce per week and are trained to harvest fruit from the orchards and then distribute the produce to local agencies. With multiple events, 52 weeks a year, we have lots of opportunities to ProduceGood in San Diego County.”

According to Wikipedia, “gleaning is practiced by humanitarian groups that distribute the gleaned food to the poor and hungry. In the Book of Deuteronomy, ‘farmers should leave the corners of their fields unharvested …to be left for widows, strangers and orphans.’ The process is hundreds of years old, but is regaining momentum today.” 

In addition to gleaning fruit from private home orchards, ProduceGood volunteers also visit three farmer’s markets each week and collect the produce that the farmers have not sold.

Kait Cole ProduceGood
Kait Cole, community orchard coordinator at ProduceGood, will be driving the harvest gleaned from a citrus orchard to local food banks. Photo by Nita Kurmins Gilson

The process is well orchestrated so that each farmer receives a tax credit, and the food is taken immediately to food banks in San Diego and North County.

Farmers and orchard owners are protected by the Good Samaritans Act, which releases them from liability when donating food.

The organization, which has now collected 240,000 pounds of food this year, has a small staff headed by Executive Director, Nina Kurmins Gilson; Financial Director, Alexandra White; Board President, Jerilyn White; and Community Orchard Coordinator, Kait Cole.

The registered volunteers total 2100 and presently 400 farmers and growers are involved with the harvesting process.

For more information about volunteering or donating produce contact their office at [email protected] or visit the Facebook page ProduceGood.

The Oceanside Crop Swap is the second group of food activists that is headed by Liz Rae and Susan George.

The gardeners meet once a month to exchange excess fruit and vegetables from their home plots and distribute the remaining produce to the Lorado House at the Mission at San Luis Rey.

“Recently, our group had a wonderful day giving of ourselves to help others. A neighbor needed help harvesting oranges and apples from the trees on her property.

ProduceGood
Group of volunteers from ProduceGood gleans produce from the farmers market which will be distributed to local food banks. Photo by Nita Kurmins Gilson

“We brought the fruit to the Lorado House that hosts a food bank two times a week. This should be a season of giving and helping others, and we hope others can look for opportunities to share random acts of kindness.”

At the group meetings, the Crop Swap gardeners also exchange seeds, gardening supplies and gather for informal classes.

For more information about joining the Oceanside Crop Swap visit their Facebook page Oceanside Crop Swap.

At The Coast News, we are always searching for innovative and productive volunteer projects that would interest our readers.

Please contact me at [email protected] if you or your organization has a project to promote in the column. Wishing you a happy, healthy and productive New Year!

Jano Nightingale is a horticulturist, and former Director of the Cornell Master Gardener Program in Cooperstown, New York. She works on community gardens in North County and can be reached at [email protected]

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