During the promotion of CSML and Harvest Against Hunger at the Moses Lake Farmers Market in August 2015, the AmeriCorps member established a farmers market recovery routine. A number of vendors wondered if they could donate their unsold food to the food bank. At the beginning of the growing season, the AmeriCorps member went around to the vendors and gave out business cards and pamphlets to promote CSML’s gleaning program to growers. The initial response was weak. Collecting excess food from the vendors, on the other hand, received positive responses from vendors because they could donate any excess produce they had at the end of the day. The first farmer’s market recovery resulted in over 300 pounds of fresh produce. The AmeriCorps member collected excess fresh produce from the vendors through the end of October.
CSML also collaborated with the local senior center, who had a volunteer collecting produce at the same market. The farmer’s market manager granted CSML permission to collect produce, and the senior center provided additional support. After some negotiation, the senior center agreed to allow CSML to glean produce from the farmer’s market. It is important to ask for permission and even collaborate with the farmer’s market and other organizations receiving excess produce from vendors. This helps to ensure every participating organization is receiving an equal share of the produce available. It also establishes trust and cooperation between organizations so that everyone can accomplish their individual missions without issues. The AmeriCorps member established dates for produce recovery and sent them to the farmers market manager.
The AmeriCorps member also attempted to recruit two to three volunteers to help every weekend due to the size of the market and the amount available to collect. Recruitment was done through email and Facebook. If no volunteers showed up it was still possible to glean the farmers market with one person. For weekly volunteer events, consider recruiting volunteers prior to the start of the farmers market season. Advertise it on a regular basis, and inform volunteers of the opportunity to come out and glean.
When volunteers participate in a market recovery project, including a short training module 30 minutes before the actual market recovery. Volunteers met at CSML and the AmeriCorps member trained them there. Some tips for approaching vendors:
- Volunteers should introduce themselves and the reason they are there before they ask a grower for produce.
- If the grower says yes, place the produce in the cart or crates. When collecting the produce, use collapsible crates that are easily stored in a car, or carts if they are provided by the farmers market.
- If the vendor does not want to donate, thank them anyway and hope they can donate food next time.
- Either way, show appreciation for vendor support because the more the vendors receive appreciation for their contribution, the more likely they will be to donate next time.
Many vendors were very receptive to the request and were happy to donate their excess produce. As a result, out of eight events, an average of 243 pounds of produce per farmers market was donated to the food bank since August 2015.