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Season’s Gleanings: Cards from the garden

Oct 2nd, 2012 | Category: Crafts

by Jessica Harbert

Rio Thomas knows gleaning. Founder of Small Potatoes Gleaning Project years ago (now a part of the Bellingham Food Bank), she has taken gleaning to a new approach. Through her business Season’s Gleanings, she handcrafts greeting cards adorned with photos of words and art created by gleaned produce.


Thomas, who has worked on local farms including Terra Verde and Broadleaf Farm, has lived in the same house for the last 20 years in Everson. There, she tries to grow as much of her own food as she can.

Gleaning is the practice of collecting leftover salvageable crops from the fields, typically after major harvests. In her experiences, Thomas said, she was always seeing the imperfections in vegetables. She began taking photos and then found the inspiration to spell ‘Thank you’ with veggies, not thinking she would ever sell the image. She then moved to pasting the images on thank you cards by hand and gifting the cards to volunteers and farmers with Small Potatoes Gleaning Project. People would ask her if she ever considered selling the cards,

“I guess I’m obsessed with food, being creative and making art with it,” Thomas said. “Everything is gleaned from my garden or others.”

Season’s Gleanings greeting cards are available at locations in Whatcom County, including both Community Food Co-ops in Bellingham and Terra Organica (which have sold the cards from the beginning) Thomas said, as well as the Garden Spot and Bakerview Nursery, and Field of Greens farm stand in Everson.

The cards are sold in other places in Washington state, Oregon and California, typically at Co-ops. The farthest reach, for now, is the Produce Box in North Carolina. Thomas also sells her cards through Etsy, an online site connecting artists with consumers. Through Etsy, Thomas has sold cards as far as Australia and the United Kingdom.

Rio Thomas creating some of her card designs. COURTESY PHOTO

Nearly everything included in the art is edible as well and there is a story behind every design.

“It is a niche for people who grow food, love food and create food,” Thomas said.

Each year a percentage of the profits, although slim for the three years so far, are donated to a local non-profit organization working toward creating a just food system. Last year, Thomas donated to Local Food Works.

“You don’t have to have a lot to have a lot of money to contribute to a better world,” Thomas said.

Access to healthy food is important to Thomas, and said she is drawn to that whether it’s teaching people to garden or providing plants.

“It is important to nourish our community,” she said.

Thomas is working on a website for Season’s Gleanings, which will allow her to offer more variety than she can on the stands, as well offering other items such as frameable poster-sized prints.

She now has 25 different card varieties – birthdays and thank you cards being the most popular – and nearly all available through her Etsy account.

One of the 25 different greeting cards she makes. COURTESY PHOTO

“A card is such a special thing,” Thomas said, noting the lost art of letter writing allows you to know someone is really thinking about you. A nice bonus for Thomas is seeing her cards on people’s bulletin boards and refrigerators, as it is a distinct kind of art that people tend to save, she added.

For more information about Season’s Gleanings, contact Thomas via e-mail at seasonsgleanings@gmail.com, or visit her Facebook or Etsy pages at Season’s Gleanings.

Published in the October 2012 issue of Grow Northwest

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