There are two key components to a working gleaning program: interested farmers and committed volunteers. Without dedicated farmers and volunteers, there would be no food to glean and no one to help harvest it. Community Food Share has built strong relationships and worked closely to glean with four farms in Boulder County. These farms also often donate culled produce, but there are always opportunities to glean from their fields as well later in the season.
The focus of the first year consisted of strengthening relationships with local farmers. It is very important to stay organized and on top of contacting farmers, so keeping all information in one file makes them easy to reference. Each farm is different and so is the type of relationship, level of trust, and style of communication with each of the farmers that own those farms. Find the best way to communicate with each and make sure to document the key information and notes for each farm. Some farmers communicate best over email and want to be present during each glean, while others prefer a call or a text and feel comfortable giving all the information to the gleaning program and letting the gleaners come in on their own.
When planning a gleaning event there are certain questions you should always ask the farmer. Some examples include:
• What type of crop is available?
• Where is the produce located? Do they have a map of the field?
• How much is available to glean?
• Any suggestions on harvesting?
• Is there anything else the volunteers should know?
Once all information is confirmed, make sure to let the volunteers know as soon as possible. An email or an event posting should be sent with the date, time, location, type of produce, and contact information for the lead gleaner. It is also important to communicate with the food bank to find out how much produce they have the capacity for and how much of it is feasible to glean with the volunteers in the amount of time available.
After the gleaning event, an email should be sent to all volunteers thanking them for their help as well as providing them with the pounds of produce they gleaned. A follow-up conversation should also happen with the farmer to thank him and to confirm his donation receipt is on its way. This is also a great time to talk with the farmer about how the glean went, if he wants to suggest any changes and to plan another glean event.