Journal

Gleaning

Our move up to the Roaring Fork Valley has coincided with the end of the harvest season.  A foundational element in our cuisine is one that reflects deep seasonality and builds Colorado specific menus.  Our goal within the first year of operation is to have 70% of our total menu sourcing to be from our own land with the other 25% from within 150 miles and 5% from beyond.  Our percentage challenges to ourselves increase every year in order to bring us within 95% of our own land’s sourcing.  Given the short growing season in Colorado, we know already that our cuisine during the deep winter and early spring months will by necessity be largely preserved, fermented, cured, dried, smoked, and aged.  So as we arrived in the valley on our land and looked forward to a winter of cooking for our hospitality cabin and for early summer weddings next year, we knew the land required us to commit fully to the last of the harvest.  We’ve done this by jumping in with our farmer friends in the valley who have been gracious enough to trade us our work for a percentage of the harvest.  And we’ve also done this by gleaning. 

Gleaning is an agricultural tradition – and in some eras a law – in which people (traditionally the poor, widows, strangers, and travelers) gathered left over crops that have been left in the fields after the majority of the commercial harvest.  The first documented laws on gleaning are in the Torah, in which Jewish landowners followed a strict set of rules in order to leave enough in their fields to be gleaned by those who did not own land and could not otherwise purchase food from that year’s harvest.  Gleaning laws and traditions continued into 18th century Europe until the paradigm shifting case of Steel v. Houghton in 1788 in which gleaning was outlawed.  This is also the case which is legally viewed as setting precedent for private property rights throughout Europe and consequently the United States, abolishing the legal sense of land being a resource to be used for the provision of common food regardless of ownership ability or inherited right.  In the land governed by the United States today it is estimated 96 billion pounds of produce goes to waste pre-consumer in our agricultural fields. 

So as we arrived late harvest, asking ourselves to dive in fully to what the land provides, with no agricultural resources yet in place for ourselves, and as new strangers to this land, we began gleaning.  An orchard offered us gleaning opportunity after its pear harvest had been brought in and we were able to bring in pounds of pears that were laying in the orchard post-harvest.  A few of our local farms provided harvests to us of beets, carrots, and tomatoes that were going to be left in the field to dissolve back into the earth.  Our emotional experience of gleaning is one of abundance and gratitude.  It can be described only as a state of grace with the land and with the farmer. 

The majority of our harvest has gone the way of preserving & fermenting for next year’s menus with a small amount becoming the daily meal provisions for our family meals.  As you all have opportunity to dine & stay with us over the next year, we’ll be sure to include on menus indicators of our gleaned produce and to tell you the stories of our participation in one of the most ancient agricultural practices. 

We are grateful daily for our work, for our farmer friends, and for the land. 

seth o'donovan