From Emily Worm, ATH Gleaning Network Manager: After working at After the Harvest for a little over a year, I have learned many lessons. I’ve learned that a bushel of apples weighs about 25 pounds. I’ve learned how to dig potatoes, plant tomatoes, harvest chestnuts, and identify turnips. I’ve learned my way around Kansas City delivering to food pantries and kitchens. Of all of these lessons, I think the biggest and the one that will stay with me always is gratitude.

Gratitude for farmers. I have always loved farm fresh produce, but it wasn’t until I got to know so many of the farmers in our area, that I really learned to appreciate the work that they put in to provide fruits and vegetables to feed their communities. The fact, that success of their crop (and many times their paycheck) is determined by so many variables that are out of their control, ie. weather, pests, consumer demand. I am in awe of their ability to deal with so much uncertainty and come back each new season eager to plant again. This newly found appreciation of their work has made me focus on seeking out local food options whenever possible. With all of the hard work these farmers put in, they deserve us to choose them.

Gratitude for my ability to choose to feed myself healthy food. After delivering food to various pantries over the past year, I’ve realized how lucky I am that I can buy and prepare food that is healthy (not that I always do, but I have the option!). The 383,750* food insecure people in our community don’t have that luxury–they have to make do with whatever is available to them. They can’t always choose to eat healthy. I however have that choice and am consciously trying to take advantage of it.

Gratitude for my coworkers. These ladies I have the pleasure of working with everyday are wonderful. They will spend many dedicated hours working to get produce into the hands of those who need it. As an office of only four full time staff and a seasonal part time individual, all of our days are busy. We all find time to help each other out. Sandy, Mindy, Lisa, Mariah, and I have all chosen to work here…chosen the hectic days in order to help provide more choices for our farmers and those that are hungry in our community.

These three gratitudes–farmers, coworkers and the ability to choose healthy food–are just the tip of the gratitude iceberg here at After the Harvest. I am constantly feeling gratitude for so many other people and things: the volunteers who harvest in the hot summer; the people who work at pantries making sure all of the produce we bring is distributed; my boyfriend who deals with boxes, shovels, and bags in our garage; the cool mornings we’ve had to harvest in this fall and my cell phone that allows me to make calls from the field. Once I start thinking about all of the things I am grateful for, the list seems to go on forever.

*Harvesters: 2016 Hunger by the Numbers. http://harvesters.org/Learn/How-Many-are-Hungry