Posted by: Jim E | May 13, 2010

Gleaning Potatoes…Well, Maybe Not…

I was reminded this morning of something that happened many years ago…on the way to church, when the kids were very young…we drove passed many farmers fields…it afforded many conversations with our boys as we went to and from church…most of the farmers raised potatoes…we watched over the spring and summer months those potato plants growing, flowering and then harvesting all the potatoes…

Most of the harvesting was done by tractor and harvesting equipment…the harvester would dig the potatoes and load them into a wagon pulled by a tractor…they would fill the wagon so full…that when they would pull out of the field, some of the potatoes would fall off the wagon…

And also in the fields there would be potatoes left behind that were too small to harvest…I never knew just what they did with those, although I wanted to go out and “glean” in those fields…at that time we were “just making it”…or should I say, those potatoes would have helped us make it…but they were not our property…so we left them…

But those potatoes that fell off the wagon???…now that was another story…when they fell off the wagon…or on the road as they turned a corner…I felt they were “fair game”…many were too marred to use…but many others were okay…and we took and used them…I assume many today would just go on by…but we were a bit needy in those days…and even today, I’m not so sure I would pass them by…”You don’t waste food.”, my Mom used to say…now many would be too embarrassed to do so…but I felt it was a waste and we could use it…sooo…we picked up those potatoes…

We were gleaners…the dictionary says: to gather grain or other produce left by reapers…or to gather information or material bit by bit…we were the former…and here is a famous painting from the 1850’s, called “The Gleaners”…

This also was a Biblical term…and was an Old Testament model for providing for the poor…and illustrates a marvelous balance of mercy and personal responsibility…those in need did not receive monetary compensation from the state…instead private citizens who grew food were to produce surplus crops to be harvested by the poor…instead of begging, those in need were to put forth effort in bringing in part of the harvest for themselves…the result was gratefulness for God’s provision…

Deuteronomy 24: 17-22 talks about this model…and it reminded me also of the story of Ruth in the Old Testament…as the reapers left the corners and the excess in the field, she gleaned what was left…today it is different in many ways…I Timothy 6:18 “Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share.”…we need to share, to give…to do good works…

But there was something about doing labor to get something that others have labored to provide…so I’m glad that those potatoes that fell on the road to be run over and wasted…I’m glad we had to stoop over and pick them up…and although some would be embarrassed to do that kind of labor…I think it did us some good in both the labor and the consumption of what we gleaned…



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Responses

  1. We have gleaned in a potato field. We have an older couple in our church that invited the whole church to glean in the field once the potatoes were harvested. We were able to get a lot for us. There were some areas of the field that were to muddy to harvest, so they left the potatoes. The farmer that was renting the field was going to disk it all under a couple days later.

    We were very thankful for those potatoes. We, in turn, give our excess away to the senior center and others that have need of it.

    ~Cheryl

    • Cheryl…That is exactly the point…you did it well…the farmer labors over the field, harvests all he can…gives permission for others to glean…the gleaners add their labor in gleaning the field…take what they can use and give the abundance to others…all then get to thank God for His provision…

      Illustrates a balance of mercy and personal responsibility…”There is something about doing labor to get something that others have labored to provide.”…gleaning is a perfect picture of this principle…”And although some would be embarrassed to do that kind of labor…I think it did us some good in both the labor and the consumption of what we gleaned”…

      I believe our family benefited from that experience many years ago…and today as we go berry picking in the wild or go to a garage sale…it all “smacks” of that experience…labor to get something that others (whether God or man) labored to provide…it just feels so good when you return with something “from the berry patch” or the “neighbors garage”…same principle…same fulfilling feeling…

      Jim E


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