“Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God” – Leviticus 19: 9-10.
God was very concerned for all the people in Israel, but took special interest in the poor and the vanquished. In the Old Testament, He commanded that farmers were not to “gather the gleanings,” or harvest all the way to the edges of their fields, but to leave whatever they dropped for the poor and the immigrant in their midst.
Gleaning is the second harvesting of the land’s produce by the poor and those who had no land of their own. The crucial premise underlying this double command is Israel’s understanding that the land belonged to Yahweh. No one in Israel was a landowner in the modern sense. Each tribe and clan had its own “portion in Yahweh,” the piece of land that represented its share in the covenant with God. The land was Yahweh’s to distribute.
Allowing others to glean on the Israelite farmer’s property was the fruit of holiness. Landowners had an obligation to provide poor and marginalized people access to the means of production (the land, in Leviticus) and to work it themselves. In this sense, it was much more like a tax than a charitable contribution. Also unlike charity, it was not given to the poor as a transfer payment. Through gleaning, the poor earned their living the same way as the landowners did, by working the fields with their own labors. It was simply a command that everyone had a right to access the means of provision created by God.
Notice the difference from our more contemporary way of thinking. The Israelite farmer did not “allow” gleaning by the poor; Yahweh God commanded it. There is no charity involved, no hand out. The poor are not to be regarded as beggars or freeloaders. They are valid members of the covenant community, and they have as much right to glean as the farmer has to harvest the crops. I believe these commands regarding gleaning give us plenty to consider if we think about our own society’s attitudes toward ownership, consumption, acquisition, benevolence, and welfare.
Gleaning once was a common practice across Europe in the middle ages. Landowners would invite the poor onto their land to gather up whatever had been left un-harvested. In 18th century England, the sexton would often ring a church bell at 8 o’clock in the morning and again at 7 in the evening to alert needy families when they were invited to gather produce.
Fast forward to a period of austerity and increasing reliance on food banks in 21st century America. Food banks are stressed to keep up with demand. Times again are harsh for thousands of families who can’t afford a steady diet of fresh, wholesome fruits and vegetables. Yet an estimated 30 percent of all food crops go un-harvested in our nation — billions of kilograms, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). There is evidence that the market demand for perfect looking produce has resulted in fruits and vegetables with mere cosmetic blemishes rotting in fields. More produce is discarded because of harvesting schedule issues or unstable market prices. There has never been a better time to revive gleaning.
Farmers and their Local Communities Rely on Each Other
Gleaning benefits every community. People need food, particularly healthy food and farmers usually manage a surplus. Fruits and vegetables help restore health, help kids perform better in school and get people to cook it in their homes to improve their overall diets in the fight against obesity. Farmers will box up and donate food that doesn’t sell at the stand or allow gleaners to pick in the fields. Consumers want food that is without blemishes, so farmers always have products that aren’t good for sale that can be donated.
A number of farmers actually give their “first fruits” – that is, they allot a portion of their crop prior to the harvest. They feel that God has so abundantly blessed them that they want to “give back” to the community. These farmers love to share. It’s a wonderful feeling to give to people and know that they will enjoy it just as much as farmers do growing it.
Some farmers feel they have nothing to lose. The motivation has little to do with a biblical command though they are pleased that their surplus will feed the hungry. They will also pocket a tax deduction worth the value of what the farm gives away. All farmers by nature want to see the food they’re growing made accessible to everyone.
The gleaning system cited in Leviticus does place an obligation on the owners of productive assets to ensure that marginalized people have the opportunity to work for their food. No contemporary individual landowner can provide opportunities for every unemployed or under-employed worker the same as no one farmer in ancient Israel could provide gleanings for the entire district. But corporations are called out to be key players in providing opportunities for work. Perhaps we working people are also called to appreciate the service that business owners perform in their role as job-creators in their respective communities.
Gleaning Collects Food for Needy and Eliminates Food Waste
It used to be that gleaning was simply tolerated, that it was legally accepted but had some sort of indignity attached. Currently gleaning is becoming more popular because the sheer quantity of the bounty that doesn’t get consumed is incredibly immense. For farmers, it is a matter of reducing waste.
In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply. This assessment, based on estimates from the USDA Economic Research Service of 31 percent food loss at the retail and consumer levels, corresponded to approximately 133 billion pounds worth of food in 2010.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2017 alone, estimated that almost 41 million tons of food waste was generated, with only 6.3 percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting. EPA estimates that more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash, constituting 22 percent of discarded municipal solid waste. Food waste includes uneaten food and food preparation scraps from residences or households, commercial establishments like restaurants, institutional sources like school cafeterias, and industrial sources like factory lunchrooms.
Local non-profit organizations in Virginia are successfully building a network that will take food which would not make it to market for a variety of reasons and distribute it to local agencies that are feeding the hungry. Supply and demand is the first rule of the deal, say farmers. And if you have more supply than you have got demand, then it’s going to go to waste.
Top 6 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer for Gleaning
- Get involved in a mission opportunity that will make a big difference in your local community without taking up a lot of your precious free time.
- Teach your children about hunger, about our blessings and the importance of becoming involved in serving others. Here in Virginia, 13 percent of children, approximately 247,000, are food insecure (No Kid Hungry Virginia, 2017).
- Establish an opportunity for your family to work together, drawing you closer and providing lots of dinner discussion opportunities.
- Provide local families (your neighborhood) in need with fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables at no cost to them. (Food pantries usually stock only non-perishable items which typically have less vitamins and antioxidants).
- In the process of serving, you will be served. Your heart will be lifted as you know you’ve made a difference in peoples’ lives in your local community.
- Salvaging unused crops prevents perfectly fine produce from getting plowed under, sent to the local dump site or allowed to perish.
Mark P. Gunderman
Stephens City, Virginia
One county citizen weighs in on municipal ‘Sludge War’
In regard to the “Sludge War” and most specifically the Town of Front Royal’s Mayor Chris Holloway, the people should consider this carefully: Blackmail is wrong. It is immoral and unethical. It has no place in government. For hurting this entire community by calling on debts and refusing to have a working relationship with the County, that could be considered extortion.
If you get what I’m saying and live in the Town, please consider running for Town Council or Mayor. As it turns out, Mayor Holloway has been found wanting. True leaders lead by example and what a total sham to have a Mayor who sets a precedent for malicious, retaliatory antics consistently used by angry bullies lacking in critical thought.
Front Royal needs YOU!
An Appeal to Heaven
Prayer has always been powerfully employed in our country for guidance, protection and strength, from the earliest time when we were only loosely united and isolated colonies. The Pilgrims at Plymouth relied on prayer during their first and gloomiest winter. George Washington “appealed to heaven,” when his Continental Army crossed the icy Delaware River on the night of December 25, 1776, in a logistically challenging and dangerous operation. Benjamin Franklin called for prayer during the Constitutional Convention in July, 1787. Tempers flared and interests clashed as the delegates sought their respective goals. It was at this time Franklin offered his famous appeal for harmony and reconciliation, an appeal for God’s intervention.
Later in October, 1789, President Washington would say at his Thanksgiving proclamation, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” Colonials believed their newly established nations many freedoms were a direct gift from God.
President Abraham Lincoln was also aware of the benefits of prayer. It was his belief that, “it is the duty of nations as well as men, to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God.” At the most tumultuous period in his presidency, he found the dire need for supplication. Before the battle of Gettysburg, he turned to God in prayer. “I went to my room one day and I locked the door and got down on my knees before Almighty God and prayed to him mightily for victory at Gettysburg.”
Today the need for continuous and relentless prayer is greater than ever.
Our nation again faces spiritual warfare on all fronts pushing our citizens into drug abuse, gambling debt, bankruptcy and suicide, along with an epidemic of dysfunctional families, violence and dissension. Our leaders must bow their heads in prayer just as the great people did in the past to avoid plunging our nation into a certified death spiral. God has provided us with everything we need to win the spiritual confrontations, accentuating the awareness to know it, believe it and act upon it. It’s through prayer that we recognize and wield the weapons and wear the spiritual armor as described in Ephesians 6.
We must ask the Lord to bless our political and corporate trailblazers with wisdom and protection and to give us the fortitude to overcome the challenges that lay ahead. We pray that corporate leaders have insight to follow in God’s ways toward peace, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. We pray for our national and local elected officials to heed God’s wisdom in their legislation, judgments and activities. We pray that each of us does our best in our efforts as we are striving to do God’s will.
Stephens City, Virginia
Couple marries again… for the first time
When California couple Ann Shulman and Steve Colwell needed a copy of their marriage license for a business transaction recently, they turned to the file cabinet where they kept their important documents–but it wasn’t amid their birth certificates or passports. No matter. Shulman sent off a letter to the state’s Vital Record Office requesting a copy, and expected its arrival in a matter of weeks.
What she received instead came as a shock: a certified copy of the pubic record of marriages in California dating from 1905—with no record of their May 5, 1991 wedding. There appeared to be no such union in Marin County or in the entire sunny state of California.
Which meant… they weren’t legally married? How to tell Colwell’s 93-year-old Catholic mother that they had been living in sin all these years? Or their two sons, James and Daniel, 23 and 21 respectively, that they were illegitimate?
In the end they decided to do the right thing: to get married again, for the first time—thirty years later to the day. This time the nuptials took place in Front Royal, VA, near Browntown, where Shulman’s family has owned a farm for 56 years. The bride wore her original wedding gown with cowboy boots and a ten-gallon hat. They planned to honeymoon in Browntown.
In the pantheon of great American presidents, a few are always at the top. Lincoln usually comes to mind, then Washington, and Jefferson. In the 20th century, the president who makes every list is Franklin Roosevelt. What makes FDR interesting is that, unlike Lincoln, FDR was beloved in his own time. Because of the way he handled the Depression, it was not uncommon to see FDR’s picture hanging in homes in a place of honor. Don’t get me wrong. Some people had issues with this president, but most appreciated his efforts to relieve the nation’s pains. Yet there was one episode where he did receive rebuke from both sides of the political aisle and the population at large and that was his effort to pack the Supreme Court.
Here was the situation. When FDR took over the nation in 1932, we were in the midst of the greatest depression in our history. The president wanted to tackle as many problems as he could in his first 100 days (starting a precedent that has lasted till today). Many of his proposals became part of his alphabet programs like the WPA, AAA, TVA, and the CCC. One of his first and, it turned out, most controversial was the National Recovery Administration. The NRA, in an effort to reduce competition, created codes that did things like set prices. The problem for FDR was that in 1935 the Supreme Court ruled the NRA unconstitutional.
FDR, worried that more of his New Deal plans would be rejected by the courts, came up with a plan to get the courts on his side. He proposed adding a new judge for every member of the Court over the age of 70, which meant adding six new justices to the bench, enough to turn the tide of the court in his favor. He claimed the court was overworked and suggested the new justices could relieve some pressure. The problem was that most Americans and both sides of Congress saw it for what it really was, a power grab. Even though the Democrats held the majority in both houses of Congress, a vote for FDR’s measure failed. The failure was partly because one judge had begun voting for FDR’s programs, but also because the courts were seen as sacred and people feared FDR’s plan could destroy the separation of powers.
Constitutionally, FDR had the power to propose this court-packing scheme. As with many things, the Constitution is silent on the number of judges to the high court, simply saying in Article 3, Section 1: “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”
Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789, which set up the Court with six judges. John Adams dropped it down to five, but then Jefferson brought it back to six and then later, when the Federalist judges did not die fast enough, he moved it to seven. Later Jackson added two more as the population grew and more judicial districts were needed. The Civil War saw some jumbling as Lincoln moved the number to ten, only to be reduced to seven by Andrew Johnson. Finally, under Grant the number was put to nine and since 1869 it has remained that way.
Now, in 2021 President Joe Biden is considering legislation to increase the number of justices for the first time since FDR. The president’s reasoning is that the Republicans have gained an unfair advantage with Trump’s three new justices. Democrats are still understandably upset at Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett after Republicans blocked Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, in his last year. However, though understandable, what the Republicans did was legal, if not morally, correct. What Biden is trying to do is no different than FDR, who wanted to make sure the courts agreed with him. If Clinton had won in 2016 and liberal-leaning judges controlled the court, there would be no call for equality in the court coming from Democratic camps.
I normally try to explain history, not solutions, but this is one area where I believe the Founders failed. Not that their system failed, but they could never have foreseen how partisan we have become.
Judges are supposed to follow the law, not a party. I would propose a new amendment to the Constitution that goes back to the original number, six, or maybe eight. With an even number, the new law would allow Republicans to choose four and the Democrats to choose four. If a judge dies, then the party of that judge gets to choose the new one. I know this sounds crazy, but with an even number justices will have to compromise over the law and not political leanings.
If Biden decided to, he might be able to pull off increasing the number of judges. Historically Speaking, however, he would need to be extremely careful. FDR won his second election by carrying all but two states before he tried something so daring. Biden does not have that same type of support. FDR, who was beloved, was seen as going for a power grab. Biden, who is nowhere nearly as loved, may not be able to survive the hit.
Dr. James Finck is a Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. To receive daily historical posts, follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog or on Facebook.
We’re persevering thanks to you!
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the courage, resourcefulness, and dedication of essential workers who toil day and night to ensure the safety and well-being of their fellow citizens.
Whether you’re a delivery person, nurse, mechanic, police officer, psychologist, grocery clerk, teacher, plumber, doctor, truck driver, social worker, pharmacist, electrician, or other essential worker, in your own way, you’ve helped members of your community make it through this difficult time.
To all of you, we say “thank you.” You’re the reason our community is making it through this crisis.
Have our elected officials forgotten who they work for?
The Town and County still can’t get it together on issues, nor on Virginia’s Constitutional and Legislative laws.
Don’t you all feel that it should be a requirement that if you are going to run or seek a political seat that a course in American History and Civics should be part of the application, as well as reading the Charters of Town and County and passing a test on them?
Just because these “good ole’ boys” gatherings seem to neglect or ignore certain things on pertaining to how things are to be conducted or pursued because of political views getting in the way, shouldn’t allow them to comment in a public meeting about their opinions. – Like finding out facts and evidence before airing your comments on our law enforcement personnel. Don’t let emotions lead you to making a mountain out of a molehill.
Work together for the common good of this county and town. Stop the fussing and wanting things to go your way, look beyond your circle and see the whole range of voters you are working for!
Front Royal, Virginia