The first step to reestablish the gleaning program for the second harvest season is discovering all the farms that might be potential donors. Here on the Olympic Peninsula, several outreach methods were employed to establish the donor base for Jefferson County Gleaning Program. They included:
Before approaching any farmer about gleaning on their farm, you can start the relationship off right by understanding their methods of sale. It has been helpful here to be sensitive about what time of year/ what day of the week/ what time of day you call a farmer. Jefferson County Gleaning found that if a farmer is in a busy time of year, or in the middle of a farmers market harvest it is better not to call – you won’t get the information you’re looking for.
Jefferson County Gleaning also found that it can be beneficial to have an understanding of the scale of the farm when approaching with requests. Over the season, it became clear that a farm that produces solely for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model will probably have less to share with gleaners because they can plan ahead and know exactly how much to plant in the spring. A farm that sells to grocery stores, wholesalers and at farmers markets are more likely to have crop abundance because they will likely try to plant more in the case it sells. With this in mind, you are better prepared to ask the farmer for a donation in the most sensitive possible manner.
Farmers around the Olympic Peninsula respond well to either email or phone communication. Initial contact was made, for the most part, by email and face-to-face (when possible). After that point, it depended on the style of the farmer. Some farmers who participated the gleaning project never once responded to email, as they preferred to receive phone calls. Consistent communication with the farmers was of absolute importance. There are many important responsibilities that occupy a farmer's time, and gleaners should make their involvement with the farm as easy and clear as possible.
Although it may sometimes feel like the harvesters are doing all the work at a glean, it is important to not lose sight of the amazing gift that has been given. Farmers are sharing their crops with strangers, crops that they seeded and thinned and probably weeded, crops that might sit right in their home space. Understanding and appreciating this might be enough to keep a donor involved with a project.
Jefferson County Gleaners show appreciation through many verbal thanks while engaged in conversation. A handwritten note of gratitude is written along with the receipt for gleaned produce. In emails and texts throughout the season, a thank you is always included. Finally, at the end of the growing season, each grower receives a handwritten thank you note.
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.