Do you know what culls are? Do you know how valuable they can become?
While serving with a YES! team at Gleanings for the Hungry in Dinuba, California earlier this year, I had the privilege of connecting with local farmer Gordon Wiebe to glean from his inside perspective of the summer gleaning operation.
In Gleanings’ winter season we package dried soup mix, which is not technically a gleaning process. But as Gordon described summer and peaches, I couldn’t help but visualize winter and the older adults who come to serve during this season.
He shared that most of the fruit comes into Gleanings from packing houses, not directly from fields.
The fruit is bruised, scarred, blemished, hail damaged, in odd shapes and sizes, overly ripe, or with split pits—but not spoiled.
People outside the farming community frequently use the word ‘seconds’ to describe this fruit, but farmers refer to them as CULLS.
Something culled is picked out and set aside. Culls are not inherently inferior or less nutritious on the inside. But packing houses won’t send them to market because of their size, blemishes, or stage of ripeness and because people shop with their eyes.
Gordon went on to say that our eyes often fool us. The best-looking, marketable fruit may or may not be the best tasting or most nutritious.
Gleanings is all about giving fruit a second chance, and summer volunteers can attest there is quite a production redeeming the peaches, eventually sent out as dried fruit.
Because of what happens to the fruit at Gleanings, it lasts longer, travels much farther, and helps meet deeper needs both physically and spiritually than shelf-ready fruit. (The exported food is always tied to proclamation of the Gospel. And in the end, food from Gleanings is consumed by hungry people who appreciate it more than we can imagine.)
When a shipment of very mature, overripe peaches arrives, Gleanings makes sure the volunteers and conveyor belts shift into high gear. If this fruit sits idle, it will quickly become mushy and unusable for the purposes intended.
HOPE FOR THE OVERLY RIPE
What wonderful parallels to our YES! team and other ‘overly ripe’ individuals serving with us. Our colorful crate of culls---up to 86 years ripe, some with canes, limited sight, special needs, physical challenges, and even split in-the-pit relationships---prepared two million servings of soup for shipment and made thirty quilts in the four and a half days we served!
In these later years of life, we do at times get set apart because we’re not shelf-ready in the eyes of consumers.
For a moment I am tempted to mutter, “Those stupid consumers who shop with their eyes!”---but then I catch myself, knowing that I’m often in that swarm of shallow shoppers.
I'm convinced that we're often too quick to slap on the 'ageism' label. Could it just be a reality of the aging process, a season when God is eager to redirect our path? Is He wanting to open our eyes to value not immediately recognized by American consumers? Value that we ourselves might have skipped over in earlier years?
The labels of 'old', 'senior', and 'elderly' do not in themselves constitute ageism—in fact, many cultures certify these crates with special seals of honor, lush with value and respect. The trouble comes when we make the wrong assumptions about these 'Son-kissed' brands. We can waste energy meticulously trying to peel labels off the skin of these succulent peaches—or we can embrace what's inside for all they're worth!
Our challenge is helping seasoned adults and leaders understand that we’ve been set aside for greater purpose, not uselessness. And we must be willing to subject ourselves to the sometimes painful pruning process—renewing our minds so that our full spiritual-fruitfulness potential can be gleaned. As this city kid learned from Farmer Gordon and Gleanings, there is a world of difference between 'CULL' and 'NULL'!
Our scrappy YES! Young Enough to Serve team from a dozen different churches returned to our dozen different packing houses with a renewed sense of our current value in God's economy and of our continuing, far-reaching potential—in spite of hail damage we've experienced along the way! And we pray this renewed spiritual vision multiplies, as we probe beneath the surface and recognize previously undiscovered potential in others.
We are not ‘seconds.’ We are culls. Culled by God for a greater purpose.
Jesus knows rejection. He knows overlooked value. And He knows how to inject culls with renewed value and purpose. Thanks for CULL-laborating with us toward fruitfulness!