U-Pick Gleaning with SoSA Georgia
There are several different gleaning approaches you can take when recovering the food properly and safely. U-pick gleaning can be extremely detailed orientated, as the volunteers have to follow safety guidelines and be careful to only pick rows the farmer said was okay to pick. Click here for “Safety Protocol”. Their fields serve a purpose of bringing people out there to pick their own produce and make money off of how much they pick, so when SoSA gleans u-pick fields we have to be very careful to abide by the rules of the farmer and their directions. This type of gleaning can also take place in front of their customers, in which they will see how, as an organization, we glean and carry ourselves when a guest on the farm.
Just like any other gleaning there are rules to follow. However, at u-picks the rules are ten times more important because of the other people that may be in the field, and because they are using that same area to bring customers back to make their profit. These are the following rules that SoSA follow when gleaning and they also reference a safety protocol guide from headquarters:
• No pets are allowed
• Volunteers must stay in the designated area assigned by the gleaning coordinator
• Bathroom use in the fields is prohibited.
• Hands must be washed prior to returning.
• There may be latrines at the farm. Be sure to point where these are to the volunteers.
• Verify with the farmer the proper paths to take to the field or if special clothing is necessary.
• Leave no trace. All trash is to be collected.
• Verify any containers or transportation beds have been cleaned prior to produce contact
• Clean tools before and after gleaning, collect wastewater if washing on the farm.
Before you start a gleaning at a U-Pick, you want to make sure that you have all the details of the row and any special parking instructors. The best way to get this information is by visiting the farm in person so there is a visual and familiarity with the VISTA or field supervisor to properly guide and relay the message to the volunteers. At many U-Pick farms the farmer is accustomed to describing how to pick that particular produce and what they should be stored in. Being a gleaning organization there are many tools and storage containers at our hands, you just need to make sure out of which will be best to store the produce in while picking. The most important part of taking the time for the in person visit is seeing where the gleaning will happen. It’s critical that you stay on the right row or area as the farmer uses the rest of the field for his paying customers that may come in and out throughout the gleaning period.
Given all the right information and materials the next step is just gleaning. The VISTA/field supervisor will coordinate the gleaning event with time, directions, and a small memo on the proper attire to wear. Once the volunteers arrive, you have to first address the safety rules and give a little background on the farmer and produce that you will be picking. Making sure everyone understands and knows the proper way to pick is very important and clarifying any questions should be addressed at the beginning as well. It’s always nice to share what local agency it will be donated to. Time to glean!
Make sure again all volunteers are clear on picking are/row and all directions. There also should be transportation arrange through the receiving agency or the VISTA/field supervisor to ensure that it will have proper space and can be located fairly close to the picking area, make sure to confirm location with farmer, to make it easier to go back and forth to fill containers. There will be some multitasking and certain jobs that people can do other than gleaning. While bringing the produce back to fill containers, each volunteer’s container should be weighed before filling final container, or once one container is full take the weight of that. Here are some important tips that should be followed when recording the collected pounds from a U-Pick:
• Weigh everything and add like produce with like produce (if more than one color/type)
• Report total pounds back to farmer, keep record for tax purposes at end of year
• Always bring own scale and keep in a cool place or just out of the sun to ensure correct measurements
• Round to the nearest whole number for record keeping purposes
• Weight bin/container/box when it’s empty before pouring produce in and subtract that from total weight with produce included
• Keep track of how many pounds went to the receiving agency, if more than one
U-picking is a great way to bring new customers to that farm and publicity. Most connections in GA with those farmers have become very strong over several gleanings because of the benefits both parties receive. The relationship that is built is very friendly and care-free with SoSA members, because they are used to having visitors out on the farm or vineyard picking alone all the time. All gleanings at U-pick farms will be ready to eat food and can be eaten while you’re gleaning.