Bulletin #4301, Food for Your Community: Gleaning and Sharing
Food for ME: Citizen Action for Community Food Recovery
Food for Your Community: Gleaning and Sharing
Originally prepared by Extension Educator Majorie Hundhammer. Revised and updated by Extension Educator Barbara Murphy.
It is estimated that between one quarter and one half of the food produced in the US is wasted. This translates to a loss of at least 160 billion pounds of food,1 some of which could be used to address hunger.
Gleaning—the act of gathering unwanted crops from farmers’ fields—is one tool that can be used to redirect unwanted crops to those in need.
Locating Farms for Donations
Gleaning requires a good deal of communication and cooperation between the grower and harvesters. The best way to find potential gleaning sites is to visit local farms and get to know the owners/growers. Take the time to thoroughly explain who you are and what you want to accomplish. Not all growers will be interested in having a gleaning team in their fields, or have the capacity to accommodate one.
Before You Contact Potential Donors
- Determine what your gleaning team is willing to do: Pick the produce from the fields? Pick up already harvested produce? Once? Weekly? Who will transport the produce? Choose someone to be the contact person for each event, who will act as the liaison between the farmer and the group.
- Contact local food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and other agencies that might be interested in gleaned crops. Listen to their needs. What crops are especially useful? In what quantities? How do they want them delivered?
Communicating with Potential Donor Farms
Before asking a farmer to donate, anticipate questions that the farmer is likely to raise. Keep in mind that a farmer is going to have some unique concerns that will need to be addressed. It’s important not to make promises you can’t keep, such as guaranteeing that no one will sue if they are injured while on the farm. Be prepared to discuss the liability provisions in detail; have a copy of federal and state Good Samaritan laws, or well-written summaries of their provisions, to give the farmer.*
Initiate a discussion of who will be responsible for providing containers for the gleaned produce. Will they be provided by the farmer, or will they have to be brought in? What are the farmer’s concerns about having all of these unknown people on the farm? Does the farmer have ground rules that need to be identified up front (such as no use of the restroom facilities or the telephone in the house, or no driving vehicles in certain areas)?
It is important to remember that producers are professionals whose time and products are valuable. Neither should be wasted by promising to glean and then not showing up, or showing up at the wrong time or place, or showing up with the wrong type of gleaners (e.g. your children or grandchildren, if the producer specifically said no children.)
|* Federal Public Law 104-210, The Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Contact your local library for United States Code 42 USC Sec. 1791.
Maine Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 14, § 166, Immunity for certain food donations. Contact your local library for Maine Revised Statutes Annotated Title 14 Section 166.
Remember the following:
- Make sure everyone has directions to the farm and group meeting location, as well as a contingency plan if the weather is poor. Remember to contact the farmer if the event is cancelled owing to bad weather!
- Remind people to bring gardening tools, gloves, and water if needed.
- The contact person should understand where the available crops are and how the grower wants them harvested and removed from the field.
- Have a plan to deliver the produce to selected agencies.
1Jonathan Bloom, American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It) (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2010), xi–xii.
Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.
© 1998, 2011
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