Organizing Gleaning Programs
Starting a gleaning program in your area is not difficult, though careful organization is required. Relationships with farmers must be developed, and one or more groups of reliable volunteers must be trained and prepared to go to a farm at short notice. Gleaning programs are often partnered with local food banks in order to be able offer tax incentives to farmers, as well as liability coverage for any accidents that might happen on their property.
When approaching a farmer about allowing volunteer gleaners onto his land, gleaning program coordinators must work out logistical issues like transportation of the gleaners and produce. Timing issues are also important, since produce is perishable and often crops must be moved out quickly at short notice to make room for more crops. They should discuss tools that will be needed and who will provide them, and get information about toilet facilities, parking, and any special requests the farmer has. For example, some farmers don’t want children in their fields or forbid smoking on their land to protect certain crops. Gleaning program coordinators should make sure volunteer gleaners are trained in the behavior that’s expected of the crew, and organize necessities like water, snacks, sunscreen, and basic first aid.
When the produce has been harvested, it must be distributed in a timely manner. Some volunteer gleaning groups deliver their harvest directly to food banks for distribution to smaller agencies or to low-income people. Other groups might divide the harvest between themselves or distribute it directly to other members through smaller neighborhood networks. Gleaning groups often work together to process and preserve fresh produce for use in the winter months, which can also be given to people in need.