Jess Brown. The few things I knew about this man I frequently met at activist Mary Green's parties: he was handsome, gentle and soft spoken; he had served on the board of the Monterey Museum of Art; he and his wife, Laura, had purchased one of my favorite paintings, that of Chinese acrobats. But I did not know one very important thing about Jess Brown: he is among three men whose imagination and heart sparked the program Ag Against Hunger in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties.
He made it possible for me to contribute my time in the Watsonville field, harvesting lettuce Saturday morning, mesmerized by the cush-chush-chush of the knife once I found a deft work rhythm. Cush-chush-chush.
When I began listening to my father’s Manchurian stories twenty years ago, it was the first time I learned of women, children and poor people gleaning after the harvest. The children’s nimble fingers were good at culling the soybeans and sorghum.
In America, when farmers cannot harvest the fields profitably, all goes under the disk; an entire field like this one gone to extravagant waste. Heartrending any time but particulary so in an economic downturn when far too many people in this country are struggling to fill the belly.
Since it’s inception in 1990, Ag Against Hunger has distributed 150 million pounds of produce, allocated by food banks. Once the local need is met, the produce go statewide and after California’s requirement fulfilled, the vegetables are distributed across the Western states.
Madonna and child (look at that one wee, wise eye, peering at me). I wish I had captured mother's image as she stooped in the field. It would have been perfect for a painting.
The friends who invited me to today's gleaning, June Cornea and Pat Skinner, being interviewed by Rusten Hogness for www.gleaningstories.org.
I am eager to take my neighbor, Mary and her children, Phillip and Maddy, to gleanings in Salinas Valley Won't you join us too? To find out more, please visit www.agagainsthunger.org.
“And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God."
Eric Nichols of Redroom tells me:
That's in Leviticus 19:9. It's a fabulous passage, because it
sets up a BIBLICAL welfare system, very different from our government
system. It still required that the gleaners WORK for their food....it
wasn't a handout!"
Thank you Jess Brown. I see a halo hovering over your head.
Causes Belle Yang Supports
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