Gleaning refers to the collection of crops either from farmers’ fields that have already been mechanically harvested or from fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest, due to low market prices.
Gleaning programs recover a large amount of edible food that would otherwise be lost, thus feeding the hungry in your community. Generally, the food is donated to a food bank for distribution (in the old days, individual families did the gleaning for themselves).
In need of a bit of extra food for your family this month? Talk to your local food bank about it- they are more helpful and positive than you can imagine!
Want to help out? Here's a partial list of Gleaning Programs in the nation, and you can always do a Google Search or talk to your local food bank about ones in your area.
No Gleaning Program in your community? You can be a local superhero and start one up yourself!
You need to find farmers in your area that might be agreeable to participating in a gleaning program. Some crops are better suited to gleaning than others, for example, grain crops vs fruit orchards.
Before you approach a farmer to discuss gleaning, do some homework on the potential issues for both the farmer and the community group you represent. Be understanding of the fact that gleaning does not benefit the farmer (other than feeling nicely altruistic), so they may be resistant to the idea and that does not make them bad people. After all, they need to eat and feed their families as well!
The following questions involve very practical issues that need to be considered:
Gleaning activities are very popular so it may be necessary to keep the gleaning activity to a manageable size either by restricting the number of people who can be involved, or by breaking the large group into smaller groups with their own leader who coordinates the group’s activities.
- Who will supply the containers for the gleaned produce?
- How many people is it practical to have involved in the gleaning activity?
- Will the gleaners need toilets or other facilities?
- Will children be accompanying gleaners?
- Is there a safe parking area?
- Who will bear the responsibility if someone is injured on the farm?
Here are some of the wider considerations to think about:
- What kind of tools will gleaners need? Do gleaners have their own tools? If not, where can you get tools – local business and community groups may provide tools as donation or to rent for the day.
- How will produce be transported? Will it need any special care to prevent damage?
- If the gleaners need toilets who will provide these? Contact local businesses to provide portable toilets.
- What kind of protection do gleaners need? Sun protection? Drinks? Snacks? First Aid? Who will provide these? Again, local businesses may be willing to donate.
- Will the gleaners need instruction to pick the produce? Who will provide this?
- Gleaners may find it useful to get a factsheet prior to the gleaning activity giving suggestions for appropriate clothing, refreshments, transport etc.
- Is there a contingency plan in case of bad weather? Or other unforseen problems?
- What will be necessary to leave the farm in clean and tidy condition? Who will be responsible for making sure no rubbish is left behind, the temporary facilities are removed and any other conditions set by the farmer are met?
And always remember, when starting up any kind of charitable organization, folks are more likely to trust your good intentions if you are organized, have clear and concise guidelines, stay in good communication with them, and have additional support behind you from another charitable organization or business that may be mentoring you (or city council, etc).
Good luck, and happy gleaning!
*As always, these photos are not mine and I claim no right to them. I'm borrowing them to illustrate a few points. In other words, please don't sue me. :)
Labels: DIY, food