In the Bible there is the story of  Ruth.  Ruth was a very poor woman.  She spent her days gleaning in order to feed her family.  She gleaned a farm belonging to Boaz, a rich landowner.  Boaz noticed how hardworking and altruistic she was and married her.  Thereafter Ruth was able to take care of herself and all her relatives.   Ruth and Boaz became the forebears of King David, and Jesus.

Gleaning is the practice of gathering the leftover crops after a farmer has reaped the harvest. It is an ancient practice that has provided food and livelihood to the poor for thousands of years.   In the Biblical Book of Leviticus, farmers are instructed not to reap (collect crops) all the way to the edges of their fields.  Instead God commands the farmers to leave some of the crops behind for the poor to come and gather.

Gleaning has served as a form of social welfare throughout the ages.  In nineteenth century England, laws dictated who was allowed to glean (orphans, widows, the poor). Church bells rang to announce that the farmers were done reaping and the gleaning could begin.

Gleaning is a form of sustainable farming because it makes the most of the land.  When a reaping can only yield 90% of a harvest, the gleanings yields the remaining 10%.  Thus nothing is wasted.