I’ve been a gleaner for nearly a dozen years. It’s not a big deal. I pick veggies local farmers don’t need or want. It feels good to be close to the soil and part of a program that donates food to young and old across the Vineyard.

Unfortunately, I recently had to take a couple of weeks off.

It was the week after Thanksgiving and my wife Joyce was off-Island. I had the day to myself and was determined to watch, actually re-watch, the seven-plus hour extravaganza of Get Back, the half-century old saga of the Beatles creating the album that came to be Let it Be.

Halfway into episode two my stomach notified me it was time for lunch. I knew George Harrison’s return and Billy Preston’s presence would quicken the pace. I started to make coleslaw with cabbage and carrots from a recent glean. Last Christmas I bought Joyce a mandolin; she promptly sliced her finger and I warned her to be careful.

My eyes were on John Lennon’s guitar, not my mandolin, as the early strains of Get Back came to life. I glanced from the TV to my coleslaw and noticed I had sliced my forefinger. Blood was everywhere. Bandages wouldn’t hold. The Beatles kept playing. Eventually I managed to wash my finger and gently slide my hand into a plastic glove. Bleeding slowed with the pressure and once more I was engrossed as Paul McCartney engineered the infamous rooftop concert.

Gleaning. We glean excess vegetables primarily at Morning Glory Farm and the Island Grown Initiative Hub. It’s out of doors. It’s not a lot of heavy lifting. It’s energizing. The veggies we harvest range from radishes and beans early in the season to tomatoes and corn in late summer to tubers like potatoes and carrots in late autumn. Island Grown Initiative, under the able direction of Astrid Tilton, delivers the produce to senior centers, elderly housing, the schools, and the Food Pantry. It’s a win-win arrangement because the food is used, and appreciated, by everyone.

When tomatoes or corn are available the demand is great. Potatoes and carrots are not as exciting but the need is still there, and the fruits of our labors are delivered on a regular basis. When we gather more veggies than people need, IGI re-purposes the produce for later use.

Our compensation is that we get to take home some of whatever is gleaned. That’s what got me in trouble. I was using carrots on my wife’s mandolin, but not paying attention.

Gleaners come in all ages. We are volunteers and together tackle the day’s assignment. Working together makes the project go quickly and the collaboration leads to instant communication. Friendships often blossom on farmers’ fields. Over the years I’ve met many people willing to lend a hand. And no one goes home empty-handed.

After my accident with the mandolin I had to skip a couple of weeks of gleaning, but was back in the field in mid-December, harvesting carrots. And potatoes.

We’ve sampled potatoes from this latest crop. What more could I want for Christmas?

Thomas Dresser lives in Oak Bluffs.