Red onions at College of the Atlantic's Beech Hill Farm.Red onions at College of the Atlantic's Beech Hill Farm.At 7:45 on a chilly Monday morning, Hannah Semler, Maine’s only full-time professional gleaning coordinator, is hurtling toward Sullivan in pursuit of giant mushrooms. She cranks the car heater up as the calls start rolling in on her speakerphone.

“Hi, Hannah,” a voice says. “We have a whole lot of beautiful salad mix that I’d love you to find a home for.” An apprentice at King Hill Farm over-picked for the previous week’s farmers market.

“Shoot,” Semler says. King Hill Farm is all of five minutes from her house in Blue Hill, and she could have collected the lettuce as she left town. Now she’s 20 minutes away, in Ellsworth, with me along for the ride. “They’ve got a big walk-in cooler at the farm,” she says, thinking out loud, “so the greens are probably better off where they are.” As she drives, she starts punching buttons on her cell, figuring out the fastest way to connect the perishable produce with the nearest community meal, which, on Mondays, is the Simmering Pot Community Supper at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital.

Semler works for Healthy Acadia, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health resources and building community in Hancock and Washington counties. Her particular project, a partnership between Healthy Acadia and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, is called the Gleaning Initiative, and the idea behind it is simple: 1) Semler fields calls from Hancock County farmers who have surplus produce that would otherwise go to waste. 2) She makes sure that it doesn’t. In between those steps, however, are dozens of unique potential arrangements.

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