A group of men from the United Methodist Church have a habit of making sure everyone in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan has food on their table.
The Maumee Watershed District United Methodist Men (members are from Fulton, Lucas, Henry, Wood, and portions of Ottawa, Sandusky, and Seneca counties) spend their weekends gleaning available crops from Northwest Ohio farm fields.
At the invitation of growers, gleaners work fields and orchards, harvesting the unpicked produce which is distributed to food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, and other charities where there has been a growing need.
A member of the organization, Eulan Tucker, says the men’s group “is a part of the (United Methodist) church, but we our own group of men that get together and do this.”
The United Methodist men “own a truck that we take out to the fields and glean the harvest, whatever crops, and we take it to various places,” said Tucker.
These men return from trips every weekend with tons of food they take to the SeaGate Food Bank, headquartered in South Toledo. SeaGate supplies food to soup kitchens throughout the area and other organizations that feed the hungry.
The group purchased its 2001 International truck with a grant from the Stranahan Foundation. It has 184,000 miles on it and automatic transmission, and the group is looking for additional volunteers to sign up as drivers. They say a commercial drivers’ license is not required, adding the truck “handles much better than the 1986 model.”
During a trip to Hoen’s Orchard in Delta, the men’s group brought back 11,472 pounds of apples. They were planning to return to the orchard this past weekend.
“That same farmer has a lot of apples up on those trees yet, and he said, ‘Hey, we’re not going to use them, come and get them. They are here for the taking,’” Tucker said.
Along with help of Polter Farm workers, the UM men gleaned seven boxes of squash, weighing 11,821 pounds. In a field near Pemberville about 40-plus people arrived to glean tomatoes for hunger relief.
“As a matter of fact, a week ago last Friday we got about 7,000 pounds of food, and this past Saturday before that we went out to an apple orchard and got almost 12,000 pounds of apples. This past Friday, we got about 7,000 pounds of various food from a farm in Oregon, and this past Saturday we went up to the Fremont area and got close to 11,000 pounds of squash. All of that came back to the SeaGate Food Bank,” Tucker said.
Tucker, an accountant with Oregon firm Tucker, Kissling and Associates, delivered an impromptu description of one particular trip the Methodist men made to Edon, Ohio to an attentive East Toledo Club luncheon audience.
“I think it’s a wonderful story of people getting together,” Tucker said.
By the way, Tucker is not a minister, but he is a lay speaker. His story describes an all-out gleaning operation by an entire community.
Here is the story in Tucker’s own words —
“The United Methodist Church in Edon, Ohio wanted to do something more than just giving to missions, and they had a pastor who had a tractor, a one-row potato planter, and a one-row potato digger. They thought they would plant potatoes and give potatoes away as part of their mission project.
“Then they wanted to find where they were going to plant them. So they got to asking around the community, and finally somebody said they had some property but it was all weed-infested. They had a business in the area that had chemicals and they would donate all the chemicals to kill all the weeds.
“Then they had people volunteer and they came in and they tilled up the land and got it ready for the potatoes. Another chemical company in the area heard about it and donated the chemicals to spray for bugs and to fertilize it over the rest of the summer, and a bunch of people got together and cultivated it and took care of it the rest of the summer.
“About four to five weeks ago, they were ready to harvest so they got 35 to 40 people together for a Thursday, Friday, and a Saturday and other churches and other people in the community all got involved in this, so it ended up being a head of faith type of thing.
“They dug up the potatoes, and some people were running the potato digger, taking them out of the ground, putting them in buckets, tossing the buckets into a front-end loader, and from the front end loader onto a flat bed.
“Other people were there sorting them out and bagging them out into 10 to 12 pound bags. Over the course of all of that, they harvested over 20,000 pounds of potatoes that was given to the needy people. About 1,500 pounds stayed in their own area. The rest we put on the United Methodists’ Men truck and brought them back to the Seagate Food Bank.”
“This is a wonderful way to serve. It is an opportunity for anyone to do local mission work,” says the men’s group website, www.maumeewatershed.org, which displays a schedule of planned gleanings.