The Roots of GleanSLO Are Nurtured By SLO County Growers

By Roxanne Sanders, GleanSLO Program Manager

Many of our farmers and growers enjoy the relationship with GleanSLO because it allows them to connect and help their community. Without these relationships, the variety of our produce would be limited. Now we are able to glean a wide range – from citrus over bok choy to sweet potatoes and many other fruits and veggies in between.

We are lucky to have so many farmers and growers on our side, and while we wish we could talk about every single person who makes our work possible, we wanted to highlight two of our long-time donors, Marcus Hunt and Tom Ikeda.

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Meet Marcus, the Fresh Harvest Production Manager at Talley Farms. Marcus began farming when he was working in the restaurant industry and saw chef’s demand for specific fruits. He started his own farm, Hunt Family Farms, where he grew blackberries for five years before transitioning to Talley Farms. Marcus first collaborated with GleanSLO after a recommendation by City Farm, an educational farm. He said that working with GleanSLO was eye opening in demonstrating the high number of food insecure residents, as well as the amount of edible food wasted in the food industry and agriculture. His favorite things about farming are being able to provide for his community, the challenges he faces and the reward of a successful harvest.

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Meet Tom Ikeda.  He is a third generation farmer in the Arroyo Grande Valley and his family farms over 800 acres of assorted vegetables. Tom first became associated with GleanSLO around 2010 after his son went to the Salinas with a group of students from Mission College Prep High School (MCP) to glean strawberries for a group called Ag Against Hunger.  After that trip, he was contacted by Stephanie Buresh from MCP to try to set up a similar organization here in SLO County. He had heard about GleanSLO and suggested that, instead of starting a new organization from scratch, he would try to partner with us. In the spring of 2010, GleanSLO and MCP had their first “trial” glean. The next school year, GleanSLO and Tom set up 4-5 gleans in the Fall and another 4-5 in the Spring and have done the same in the past nine school years as well.  This partnership has helped bring GleanSLO out to larger commercial farms and to increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables going to the Food Bank Coalition.

Tom has also 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.