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 Boulder and Broomfield Counties in Colorado since 1981. Last year Community Food Share distributed close to 10 million pounds of healthy, nutritious food to food insecure individuals and families through its 42 partner agencies and pantries as well as its three direct distribution programs. The quality and freshness of the food is a strong focus of the organization with the goal of fresh produce accounting for 35% of distribution.
In 2016, Community Food Share brought on a Harvest Against Hunger VISTA to put more focus on the Garden Share programs. During the 2017 season the VISTA brought in 17,300 more pounds than the previous season without the VISTA. Garden Share encompasses several growing and harvesting programs that bring fresh, local produce into the food bank. The Community Garden Donations is a collaboration with Earth’s Table, a nonprofit community of gardeners who maintain several garden sites around the Boulder area. The volunteers of the Earth’s Table group grow everything from seed to harvest to help feed hungry people by donating to Community Food Share and a few other local agencies. This program also encourages home and community gardeners to share their bounty from their backyards and community gardens. 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. Some smaller local Boulder County farmers have even participated in the Monday Produce Pick-Up program, started by the VISTA, to collect excess produce from farms that did not have the staff time to deliver the product to the warehouse. The Gleaning program also works with some of these farms that do not have the labor or resources to collect all the produce out of their field but see the potential of the amount of food left that can be recovered. Farms will contact Community Food Share, and the VISTA will also reach out to farms to request for groups to come and gather the produce.