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. Community Food Share has built strong relationships and works 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.
The focus of the first year should consist of strengthening relationships with farms. It is very important to stay organized. Keeping all information in one file makes them easy to reference. Each farm is different, so the type of relationship, level of trust, and style of communication are all going to be different. 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:
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 is feasible to glean with the volunteers in the amount of time available.
After the glean 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.
Community Food Share (CFS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit food bank serving Colorado’s Boulder and Broomfield Counties. In operation since 1981, it is a long-standing hunger relief agency operating as part of the Feeding America network. Last year Community Food Share distributed 10.4 million pounds of healthy, nutritious food to food-insecure individuals and families through 42 partner agencies and pantries, as well as three direct distribution programs. As part of its organizational mission, Community Food Share strives to provide fresh, high-quality food – ensuring that 35% of food product is produce and 40% is high protein items such as milk, eggs, and frozen meat.
In 2016, Community Food Share began the three-year VISTA assignment with Harvest Against Hunger in order to further build out its Garden Share program. Garden Share encompasses several growing and harvesting programs that bring fresh, local produce into the food bank. During the 2017 season, the VISTA brought in 17,300 more pounds than the previous season without the VISTA. Through the Garden Share program, there are three major ways that Community Food Share interacts with the community to secure fresh produce: maintaining relationships with farmers for Farm to Food Bank, utilizing volunteers for the Gleaning Program, and reaching out to backyard and community gardeners through Community Garden Donations. Each of these active networks expands the conversation around food security in Boulder and Broomfield Counties and encourages the community to engage with fresh, local fruits and vegetables.
The Community Garden Donations portion of Garden Share is a collaboration with Earth’s Table, a nonprofit community of gardeners who maintain several garden sites throughout Boulder County. Earth’s Table grows everything from seed to harvest for donation to Community Food Share and a few of its partner agencies. Additionally, Community Garden Donations also encourages home and community gardeners to share their bounty from backyard and community gardens. The second VISTA launched an official Grow a Row campaign throughout the food bank’s service areas to highlight particular ways gardeners could help including particular types of produce to grow, and how to volunteer. The Farm to Food Bank program works with local, regional and state farmers to bring in fresh produce, meat, and dairy items to the food bank. Many of these farmers work with a culled produce recovery program, donating excess product already harvested from their fields. Various local Boulder County farmers have participated in the Monday Produce Pick-Up program, started by the first VISTA, to collect excess produce from farms after farmers market weekends. The second VISTA continued this program and also continued picking up from a local farmer’s market throughout the season. The Gleaning Program works with various farms and landowners to procure the leftovers from a first harvest. Over the past two VISTA terms, farms have contacted Community Food Share and the VISTA communicates with them throughout the season to confirm gleanings. The second VISTA also worked with many local fruit tree owners in gleaning apples, plums, and pears.