From VEG (Vegetable Emergency Glean) Squad member Mary Dees (Mary is pictured here, second to the left, along with fellow VEG Squad gleaners Randy Burdge, Barb Decker and Tom Decker): I can always remember my mother telling me that no one should ever go hungry in America. She often paraphrased the passage that a farmer should harvest his field but leave the four corners so the hungry can gather food. On the sixteenth anniversary of my mother’s death, I heard a program on NPR about gleaning right here in Kansas City. Next thing I knew, I became a gleaner and VEG Squad member with After The Harvest.

I have gleaned tomatoes, radishes, mustard greens, red lettuce, and, my favorite, giant turnips. On one gleaning, I met the 87-year old farmer, harvested his lettuce, drove it to a food pantry and watched a man take a large handful of the freshly picked lettuce for his sandwich. Now that was a great gleaning!

I am not young and I have a bad back. So, when I am gleaning and my back acts up, I just lie down on the dirt for five minutes and then start again. The other gleaners know my story so no one panics when they see me on the ground. My fellow gleaners are people I look forward to seeing each week as we glean unwanted produce and take it directly to food pantries feeding people in our community.

From Sandy Vivian, After the Harvest Outreach and Communications Director: When a farmer puts out a call this growing season, the VEG Squad will spring into action, rescuing fruits and vegetables from nearby fields and orchards.

In its first year of operation, the VEG Squad has launched from a core group of After the Harvest retirees who have gleaned weekday mornings on short notice, the toughest volunteer slots to fill. Because of the nature of farming, those short notice calls from farmers to After the Harvest about potatoes due to be turned under or strawberries that may rot, happen often…and many pounds of produce have been saved thanks to their efforts.

Now, After the Harvest is looking for more volunteers to join this quick response team who will take to the fields from mid-May through November when individuals and families or organizations have not been booked on gleaning dates that pop up. Groups including faith-based, civic, scout and corporate organizations reserve dates in advance and are informed of the farm location, within 30-45 minutes of Kansas City, and produce to be gleaned as the calls come in.

Usually one or two days before the pop up gleaning, the VEG Squad will be notified and based on their availability, will launch into action, enjoying friendship, fresh morning air, beautiful farm settings, exercise and shared rides (if they choose) at the weekday gleanings, usually 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. and later in the fall. But best of all, they help provide fresh, nutritious produce to hungry families in Kansas City.

Retirees as well as others available weekday mornings to glean on short notice are invited to the VEG Squad’s “Beet and Greet”, Thursday, May 12, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at a VEG Squad member’s home near W. 65th and State Line Road. Meet new friends, find out more about the VEG Squad and enjoy coffee and other goodies. To RSVP and get directions, contact Sandy at 816-921-1903 or

Sign up to glean with After the Harvest. We can’t wait to see you in the field!