It is never too early to start working on donor outreach. Unlike the growing of fruits and vegetables, building relationships with farmers, farmer’s market managers and property owners has no off season. Make it a routine goal to attend farmer’s markets, talk with local farmers and explain the process of your program. Get in touch with your local Extension office as they have existing relations with many of the small farmers in your area. They can help you with contact information and give you a lead in who may be interested in donating. A good portion of promotion will happen while talking with strangers at coffee shops or public events. Clallam County is lucky to be situated in a climate hospitable to year round vegetable production and is home to countless backyard orchards. You never know when you are talking with a potential donor. Be ready to talk gleaning.
If you are responsible for creating a food recovery program or are jumping into an existing program make sure you are able to concisely explain the process for donors and volunteers. The most frequently recurring question received by the WSU Clallam County Gleaning program is, “What is Gleaning?” If this is the first question from a member of the public, some education is in order. Practice with a co-worker, your cat, a pen and paper or with a stranger to get your elevator speech down. You will need to define gleaning as a verb and the context in which it is utilized in your program. Not being able to define gleaning will leave potential volunteers and donors in the dust if you go on to talk about liability, distribution or any positive impacts. During your initial meetings make sure to talk with the food banks and agencies that will be receiving gleaned produce. Knowing the entire story from field to food bank will help illustrate your program’s promotional wording.
If you are entering an existing program or creating one from scratch, take the time to introduce yourself to existing or potential donors (In either case you’re the new person in the equation). Let them know who they will be working with and provide an opportunity to talk about issues and areas for improvement. Most farmers seem to like a handshake in person if they have the time to speak at all. As much as calling ahead of a meeting is always recommended don’t be afraid to stop by a farm and see if someone is available. Often times a farm worker isn’t going to make an appointment in the middle of the day to speak for twenty minutes. This disturbs their work and can be an anticipated headache. Feel out the situation first but it rarely backfires. At the worst they will not be available. By visiting a farm you are also able to see where gleaners will be driving, how the fields are arranged, what packaging is available and much more. Giving volunteers a heads up about potential pot holes and muddy roads can be really helpful.
WSU Extension builds the capacity of individuals, organizations, businesses and communities, empowering them to find solutions for local issues and to improve their quality of life. The 39 Extension locations throughout the state of Washington offer researched based resources and volunteer programing to communities in efforts to create a culture of life-long learning and is recognized for its accessible, learner-centered, relevant, high-quality, unbiased educational programs. Over 100 years ago The Extension service was originally funded by the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 which established the Cooperative Extension service across the country.
The Clallam County Extension, located in Port Angeles, is home to many programs that connect the people and communities of Clallam County with the knowledge base of Washington State University. These programs include: Master Gardeners, 4-H, Small Farms, Waste Reduction, Food and Nutrition and Water Protection. The Food Recovery Coordinator position was created in 2016 to better serve the existing gleaning program. Before the creation of this position the gleaning program had served the community for eight years but never with the attention of a full time position. Today the gleaning program has over 300 volunteers who pick produce from residential trees, farm production overages, community garden donations and extras from a local farmer’s market. The gleaning coordinator promotes the program by presenting public lectures, reaching out to volunteer organizations, teaching youth groups, attending local events and by putting out press releases. Home owners are more than happy to hear there is a volunteer based organization willing to pick their unusable fruit and veggies. Once the produce has been picked a portion is taken home to family and friends and the rest is brought to a local food service program, most often a food bank. The gleaning program takes pride in turning potential food waste into a community resource.