IN HER FIRST SEASON ON A PRODUCTION FARM, Audrey Berman had a moment of realization. While harvesting a field of beets, she says she was startled by the amount of produce left behind during a harvest cycle. “It kind of broke my heart,” she says. “There’s all this edible food—it doesn’t look perfect, but it could go to somebody. I always kind of carried that with me.”
That moment haunted her through three years of farm work. Through her membership in the Hudson Valley Young Farmers Coalition, she met Laura Engelman, and the two developed the idea of a non-profit “food-gleaning” company that would redistribute leftover produce from Columbia County farms to various food pantries and community organizations. Engelman previously had worked for a similar project in Washington state that recovered more than 25 tons of fresh produce for distribution.
Berman and Engelman co-founded Long Table Harvest to collect and redistribute excess farm produce to Columbia County residents. According to 2015 census figures, more than 9,500 households in Columbia County have an annual income of less than $40,000—which means that almost 17,000 people (about a quarter of the county’s population) may lack access to affordable, nutritious food, Berman says.
Long Table Harvest currently collects produce from 17 farms (including Common Hands, Hawthorne Valley, Katchkie, Lineage and Roxbury) for distribution throughout the county through organizations like Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, Salvation Army Hudson, Valatie Ecumenical Food Pantry, Elizaville Methodist Church Food Pantry and the Victory Bus Project.
In-kind donations have provided Berman and Engelman with cooler space, wash stations and harvesting tools. On-call volunteers are needed for gathering and distribution.
Eventually, Berman says they hope to expand the program to include Dutchess County.