Donor Relations with Society of Saint Andrew MS
Farmers’ markets: Walk around markets and mingle; talk to the growers or if someone else is selling for a farmer, find out the farmer’s name and phone number. This is also a good way to see what is grown in the area
Farm Shows: Look for farm shows in your area and check with the organizers (state departments of agriculture often run them) to get a free booth or table. This is a great way to connect with current providers in off seasons and gives a chance to get SoSA’s name out there to new providers. Examples of these shows include Blueberry Growers’ Association meetings, equipment expos, etc.
County Extension Agents: Make appointments to see either the Director of the County extension or the agent who actually deals with fruit and vegetable growers. Sometimes they will give the name and phone numbers of farmers and sometimes they won’t. This is helpful in spreading the word to farms that may otherwise be difficult to contact.
Farm Service Agents: Make contact with these folks. They are part of the USDA and are being pushed to encourage farmers to do gleaning. Also, they know the farmers and what they are growing. Farmers are supposed to register their crops with the FSA.
State Department of Agriculture: The State Dept. of Agriculture may put out publications that would be helpful such as a list of pick-your-own farmers. Some states may have websites that even list growers.
Newspaper listings of Pick-Your-Own-Farms: In the springtime, papers will often run listings of farms in the area. Pick-your-own farms are often a great place to start because they are used to having “laypersons” in the field.
When contacting farmers, it may be possible to contact them during the day; however, it is often easier to catch a farmer at home after dark. Some farmers may respond better to a personal visit.
When calling farmers, let them know as soon as possible that you are NOT interested in money. A model script to start out with might be:
“Hi, This is (name) and I work for Society of St. Andrew. We are an organization that works with farmers to glean their fields and get the produce to needy persons.”
Tell the farmer in general terms what SoSA does and ask if they might be interested in having their field gleaned. Depending on the farmer’s response to a first phone call, it may be easier to say a little bit about SoSA and then say that you could mail information to the farmer and you will call back after they have seen the material. Understand that it would cost farmers more to harvest what can’t be sold than to allow SoSA to glean their surplus. Also, SoSA volunteers can help keep plants producing by picking regularly.
Selling points of gleaning:
- Field Supervisor: Let the farmer know that there is a trained volunteer in the field who will help to supervise the groups that glean. This person ensures that the gleaners are respectful of the farmer’s property. Make sure that the farmer knows to schedule a specific time when our gleaners are in the field with a field supervisor and gleaners from SoSA are NOT there at other times on their own.
- Liability: If the farmer is concerned about this, let them know that the gleaners are asked to sign a waiver. You may want to give them a copy of the waiver to look over, for their own peace of mind.
- Tax Credit: Let the farmer know if your state has a tax credit for gleaned produce. Also, let them know about the Federal Enhanced Tax Deduction.
Things to find out from growers:
- What crops do they grow?
- When do they harvest and when might gleaning be possible?
- How many acres do they grow?
- Where are their fields located?
- Is it an Organic farm?
- Are children under 18 allowed in the field under supervision?
It is very helpful to keep an excel spreadsheet of all contacts made. Put each farmer on a separate sheet and keep track of when contact was made. Write down what crops they grow and when these might be available. Often a farmer will say “call me back in a few weeks.” Make sure to write that down and perhaps write a reminder on a calendar to make the phone call.
Help farmers understand what SoSA does. Help them to know that SoSA is concerned for them; SoSA doesn’t want to take any produce that they could sell, just what would otherwise go to waste. SoSA doesn’t allow recipients to sell the gleaned produce or compete with the farmers’ sales in any way.
It’s important to know what your farmers value. It could be recognition, how many people they feed, confidentiality, or their love for providing healthy veggies.
That’s something we’re trying to figure out. Farmers don’t really appreciate SoSA spending money on gifts or trinkets. Some farmers also don’t like people to know who they are so recognition and appreciation are not what they are looking for. We are looking and learning to figure out a standard way to show appreciation to farmers but often times what they appreciate the most is very individualistic.
Farmers and individual gardeners provide the donations necessary for the Society of St. Andrew to function. Food providers, therefore, are at the top of the supply chain and are treated with utmost respect. Farmer’s names and information are not given out unless given permission for their protection.
Maintaining Contact with Farmers
Some farmers like SoSA to keep in contact with them year round—even when they are not growing or SoSA volunteers are not actively gleaning with them. There are a variety of ways to do this. First, during the growing season, make certain to contact farmers often about how the crops are progressing and what they are growing, and how much is being harvested. Remember after every gleaning to send a thank you note to the farmer. During the holidays, make certain to send a Christmas card (provided by Regional Office). In January, send them their tax letter and a letter of thanks (Regional Offices/Program Coordinators handle this). In the spring, check with the farmer to see what they will be planting that year.
Step 1: Ascertain the time when the crop needs to be gleaned. Some farmers will know a while in advance if they expect to have something to glean. Others may not contact us until they want it out of the field the next day. Try to work within the time constraints that the farmer would like. Flexibility is key!
Step 2: Find out how large the field is or how much the farmer expects SoSA volunteers to glean: This is crucial because it determines what the optimum number of gleaners would be and how many/what size vehicles are needed to transport the crop.
Step 3: If you are uncertain about packaging, ask the farmer what she or he would suggest for packaging.
Step 4: Then, let the farmer know that you will be back in touch when you have made arrangements for gleaning. Always make certain that you have confirmed with the farmer, the date and time that Gleaners will be at the field.