Recruiting volunteers for gleaning on the Olympic Peninsula is a test of persistence and creativity. There are no cities here and no big colleges or universities; and overall it is not very densely populated. Yet, there are many ways to spread the word about the opportunity to glean. Try the outreach and recruitment methods used on the Olympic Peninsula:
With South County Community Harvest and the Clallam County gleaning project, retaining volunteers has required clear and consistent communication. It has been important for volunteers to feel actively engaged even when there is a lull in gleaning opportunities. This has been accomplished by sending reminder emails about scouting out fruit trees, asking volunteers to invite their friends, family, and neighbors to volunteer. Personal phone and email exchanges that ask volunteers their availability creates a relationship where a volunteer feels like they must be helpful to have their schedule be worked around. If a volunteer feels needed it creates a strong sense of purpose and motivates continued volunteer engagement.
Another method used to retain volunteers is genuine gratitude. Appreciation of volunteers has been a retention method. Volunteers with South County Community Harvest are always thanked for their work and involvement in the project. Having “thank you” picnics or celebrations throughout the season or at the end of the season is another way to accomplish this. Sending thank you cards to individual volunteers with personalized messages at the end of the season is also a kind gesture of gratitude that was practiced this year.
WSU Cooperative Extension is a state-wide county resource for Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, with the mission of extending knowledge and changing lives. It was founded by the Smith-Lever Act in 1914. The Extension in Jefferson County offers diverse learning opportunities and resources for all ages. These include Master Gardeners Program, Small Farms Program – Small Farms Internship, livestock classes, farm management and budgeting; Food Preservation classes, 4-H, Marine Resources Committee, Water Resources, Organic Seed Alliance, Toxic Weed Board and Gleaning/Food Recovery.
The Gleaning/Food Recovery Program is in its second year of the program for the county. It is the first year of involvement for WSU Extension). The Gleaning Coordinator gleans crops left in the fields after the harvest. This produce is then distributed to five food banks county-wide, YMCA Summer Meals Program, Senior Meals, Jefferson County Mental Health Harbor House meal program, DOVE House - a domestic violence shelter - and the Boiler Room - a youth-oriented coffee house which has a free meal program. The Food Recovery program collects ‘left-overs’ (prepared food) from commercial kitchens, caterers and restaurants, packages, label and date them for distribution to the homeless and seniors who do not have the means or capacity to prepare food themselves.