Planting Seeds and Harvesting Life

How can one meaningfully come alongside those who don’t have access to healthy food and are undernourished? Would you be surprised to learn that in 2013 an answer could be gleaning?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the verb glean means “to gather grain or other produce left by reapers.”  In Biblical times, the Lord commanded the Israelites to care for the poor by leaving unharvested grain on the edges of the fields and grapes on the vine for the poor to harvest (Leviticus 19:9-10, 23:22).  In Ruth 2, we see the widow Ruth gleaning the fields to provide for herself and her widowed mother-in-law (Ruth 2:2-3).   God designed gleaning to provide for and sustain the poor, widows, and orphans.

Now, in the 21st century, gleaning has gained renewed attention across the country as people recognize both waste left behind and the myriads of people who are hungry and don’t have access to nutritious foods.  In the Greenville area, there are several organizations that are putting the practice of gleaning to work. Grace member Julie Ellingson is actively involved in two of them.

A nurse by profession, Julie has a desire to care for and nurture others, helping them to be all God has called them to be.  In her pediatric practice, she frequently encountered obese children and began to recognize that part of the problem was a lack of knowledge about food and a lack of access to healthy food.   As God opened her eyes to the needs, seeds were planted in her life that led her to explore the idea of gardening and gleaning as a possible solution to the problem. In 2010, Julie and a friend planted a garden on the Grace Pelham campus to provide produce for Triune Mercy Center, a  church that provides assistance to the homeless in downtown Greenville.  Today, Julie uses her gifts and skills to volunteer with the Society of St. Andrew and the Generous Garden Project.

The Society of St. Andrew, a national Christian organization, partners with existing farms and gardens that have surplus food. They provide volunteers to glean the fields and then take the produce to local agencies such as the Frazee Center, Miracle Hill and Streetside Catering. Recently, Julie gleaned 300 pounds of food in just a couple of hours!

Julie also serves on the board of the Generous Garden Project.  This group’s mission is to grow organic produce, give fresh healthy food to area agencies, and teach others to grow their own nutritious food.  Julie has partnered with this group since it began a year and half ago, and uses her love for gardening, her desire to provide food for the underfed, and her working experience to help out. The Generous Garden currently manages two organic gardens in the Greenville area, and has distributed more than 100,000 pounds of produce.

Whether she is gleaning an area field to help provide fresh produce for a local food shelter, or tending a garden designed specifically to grow such produce, Julie is helping to make life better for the hungry in Greenville.  Her efforts are life-giving, both in the offering of healthy food and in the hope that it brings participants who receive the food or learn to garden for themselves.

The desire to connect good food to those who need it most is often overshadowed by the primary obstacle: finding enough people to glean it and then deliver it to the agencies and programs that can most easily distribute it.  Here’s where you can help!  For more information about how and when you can glean, email Ashley Bruce-McCoy to find out about local opportunities.  For information about gardening, gleaning or delivering food for the Generous Garden Project, visit their website,

~Keri Geary