Donor Relations: Farmers

The farmers are the base of the gleaning network. Farmers must know that we are not trying to “take advantage” of them or do anything harmful to their crops, land or business. It is especially important that farmers understand they we have their interests at heart as well as the hungry. Farmers are usually a part of a close network and one bad experience can spread like wildfire. Farmers are perhaps the most important component of our work. When in doubt, do whatever necessary to make the farmer happy.

A. Recruiting Farmers 

  • Farmers’ Markets: walk around and talk to the growers or if someone else is selling for a farmer, find out the farmer’s name and phone number.
  • Farm Shows: Look for farms shows in your area and check with the organizers (state departments’ of agriculture often run them) to get a free booth or table. Usually if you ask, mention you are a nonprofit organization, they will waive the fee.
  • County Extension Agents: Make appointments to see either the Director of the County ext. Or the agent who actually deals with fruit and vegetable growers. 
  • Farm Service Agents: They are part of the USDA and are being pushed to encourage farmers to do gleaning. Also, they know the farmers and what they are growing. Farmers are supposed to register their crops with the FSA.
  • State Dept. of Agriculture: May put out publications that would be helpful such as a list of pick your own farmers. Some states may have websites that even list growers.
  • Newspaper or Google listings of Pick-Your-Own-Farms: In the spring of the year, papers will often run listings of farms in the area. Pick your own farms are often a great place to start because they are used to having people in the field. 
  • Driving through communities: When driving through rural backroads, you may notice fields of row crops. Try to find out who owns or leases this land. Sometimes there may be workers in the field that you can approach to ask or there may be a packing house nearby where you can ask to speak to a farm manager.

B. What To Say To Farmers Contacting Farmers: If you have a farm office number, you may be able to contact a farmer during the day; however, it is often easier to catch a farmer at home after dark. Some farmers may respond better to a personal visit. When calling: Let the farmer know as soon as possible that you are NOT interested in money. Tell the farmer in general terms what your organization does and ask if they might be interested in having their field gleaned. Depending on the farmer’s response to a first phone call, it may be easier to say a little bit about your organization and then say that you could mail information to the farmer and you will call back after they have seen the material. Make sure that this material is to-the-point and geared specifically for farmers. You may want to include points about liability forms, tax incentives, the Good Samaritan Act, and where the food goes.

Selling points of gleaning:

  • offload when farmer can’t sell the produce for profit (it would cost more to harvest than it could be sold for)
  • offload when is unmarketable because the food may have some damage from weather (too much rain)
  • For u-picks, it will help their plants to keep producing if they are picked. Ask the farmer is there are any under picked areas (e.g., strawberries, blueberries)

Let the farmer know that you have a trained volunteer (or you yourself) in the field who will help to supervise the groups that glean. This person ensures that the gleaners are respectful of the farmer’s property. Make sure that the farmer knows that you schedule a specific time when gleaners are in the field with a field supervisors and gleaners are NOT there at other times on their own.

Liability: If the farmer is concerned about this, let them know that the gleaners are asked to sign a waiver. You may want to give them a copy of the waiver to look over, for their own peace of mind. The Good Samaritan Act should cover most aspects but the liability waiver is an additional precaution.

Tax Credit (if applicable, your organization must be registered with the Federal Government): Let the farmer know if your state has a tax credit for gleaned produce. Also let them know about the Federal Enhanced Tax Deduction.

Things to find out from farmers:

  •  What crops do they grow
  • When do they anticipate harvesting and when might gleaning be possible
  • How many acres do they grow
  • Where are their fields located 

Ultimately, the goal of the initial conversation is to help farmers to understand what your organization does and how a partnership will benefits them. Help them to know that you are concerned for them; you won’t take any produce that they could sell, just what would otherwise go to waste. You don’t allow our recipients to sell the gleaned produce or compete with the farmers’ sales in any way. Farmers and Growers are, as a demographic, are extremely independent and reject the concept of “hand-outs” for themselves and often others. Gleaning is about empowering farmers and helping the community they live and farm in.

C. Maintaining Contact with Farmers

Most farmers like you to keep in contact with them year round—even when they are not growing or you are not actively gleaning with them. There are a variety of ways to do this:

  •  First during the growing season, make certain to contact farmers often about how the crops are progressing, what they are growing, and how much is being harvested
  •  Remember after every gleaning to send a thank you note to the farmer.
  •  During the holidays, make certain to send a holiday card.
  •  In January, send them their tax letter (if applicable) and a letter of thanks.
  • In between seasons, check with the farmer to see what they will be planting next season.

D. Scheduling Gleanings with a Farmer

  1. Ascertain the time when the crop needs gleaned: Some farmers will know a while in advance if they expect to have something to glean. Others may not contact you until they want it out of the field the next day. Try to work within the time constraints that the farmer would like. Flexibility on your end is key!
  2. Find out how large the field is or how much the farmer expects us to glean: it determines what the number of gleaners would be and how many/what size vehicles are needed for transport.
  3. If you are uncertain about packaging, ask the farmer what she or he would suggest.
  4. Let the farmer know that you will be back in touch when you have made arrangements for gleaning.
  5. Always make certain that you have confirmed with the farmer, the date and time that volunteers will be at the field.


Community Agencies

Agencies are the third side of the triangle of gleaning. Agencies are the places where gleaned food is distributed to those who are in need. Agencies can take a variety of forms. The goal is to get the produce onto the tables of hungry persons as quickly and efficiently as possible.

A. Overview

  • What is an Agency: Agencies may include Food Banks, soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, orphanages, and subsidized housing projects.
  • Agency Requirements: Any agency which is a nonprofit, feeds those in need, and doesn’t charge for the food may be considered for distribution. If an organization accepts payment for the food, it may complicate the donation due to the requirements of the Good Samaritan Act.

B. Finding Agencies

  • Online Food Assistance Directories: Search for local agencies via online food assistance directories such as, and
  • Call County Department of Social Service: Ask if there is any organization that feeds the needy or distributes food in the county.
  • Call County Housing Authority: Ask for a list of subsidized housing projects and the names and phone numbers of the Resident Councils’ Presidents.
  • Contact Local Community Service Outreach Organization: Ask for names of agencies they work with.
  • Contact Local Ministerial Alliance: Ask for names of agencies within their network.
  • When Building a Database of Agencies, Find Out:
    • The name and phone number of the contact person
    • The kind of agency (shelter, soup kitchen, etc.)
    • The amount of produce the agency can handle
    • The hours that the agency is open
    • Directions to the agency location
    • If the agency is a “middle man” and distributes produce to any other agencies in the area. This is to ensure that you do not duplicate such distribution.


C. Scheduling Distribution

  1. Deciding on a Distribution Location:
    • a. Where is the field located? What agencies are closest?
    • b. If an individual with a truck is distributing the produce, from where is the individual coming? Would be it more convenient to find an agency closer to their home or on their route from the field to home?
    • c. How much food is expected to be gleaned? Could one agency handle all of it or does it need to be divided between several agencies?
  2. Call Agency: Make certain that the agency wants and can pick up or receive the food on the given day. 
  3. Confirmation: The day before the event, follow up with the agency to ensure they can still pick up/receive the produce. Make certain that you have the correct directions to the agency along with contact information or if the agency is coming to pick up from the field that they have correct directions and your contact information


Society of St. Andrew, Georgia Gleaning Network opened in Tifton in 2007. Tifton is a southwest Georgia town with a population of about 20,000 citizens but rich with crop farmers and central to rural Georgia. Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) covers a gleaning operation for the state of Georgia, overseen by the Program Coordinator. The state currently has one Hunger Advocate based in Cleveland, Georgia, covering the mountain region in North Georgia. The focus area of SoSA’s work, south rural Georgia, presents several challenges including transportation for volunteers, recipients, and aging populations, a lack of economic development in small communities, limited access to the internet, lack of access to fresh produce, and racially divided communities. Georgia ranks ninth in the nation when it comes to senior food insecurity, and the overall food insecurity for the state was 15.1 percent in 2016. As of November 2017, the Georgia Gleaning Network has collected 1.3 million pounds of produce that have been distributed to community agencies throughout the state.

Program Description

The Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) is a domestic faith-based non-profit, focused on hunger-relief and food advocacy, with the Georgia Branch located in Tifton, Georgia. SoSA operates a volunteer-driven Gleaning Network in Georgia that includes volunteers who save fresh produce every year and use it to feed hungry people all across the state. The Americorps VISTA works alongside the Program Coordinator in Tifton and state director in Atlanta, gathering best practices of gleaning to expand the gleaning network to other regions in South Georgia. Through the Georgia Gleaning Network, we coordinate volunteers in many areas of the state who enter fields after farmers have finished harvesting and simply pick up the tons of good produce left behind. Our volunteers represent groups from various church denominations, synagogues, youth groups, other civic organizations, individuals, and inner-city residents.

Background of Operations

Society of St. Andrew’s success is built on strong relationships with local influencers, individuals, communities and civic organizations. The collection of these partnerships with Society of St. Andrew is called the Gleaning Network. Given the Gleaning Network’s importance, it’s necessary to determine the key factors for sustainable growth. The most influential factors being, whether it precludes or includes the potential partner, are opportunity, distribution/ logistical barriers and the area's rate of food insecurity in that community. The types of relationships integral to operations will be addresses below and include Volunteer, Farmers, and Agencies. Society of St. Andrew cultivates will be addressed in the section Gleaning Model.

Gleaning Network 

The three sides of a triangle in Graphic 1 create the gleaning model for SoSA. Each one is important to the process and SoSA’s mission could not be done without all three. The key groups are defined as Volunteers, Agencies, and Farmers. Agencies SoSAs distribute to, Farmers or growers that donate Society of St. Andrew/Rotary First Harvest Resource Guide 4 produce and trained glean teams volunteers donate their time too. Without any one of these three, the structure would collapse. The Gleaning Model (graphic 1) is the visual depiction of Society of St. Andrew’s Gleaning Network. As mentioned in the previous section, the relationships are key in the organization's success so SOSA has created an efficient and effective information database to determine success. The database tracks many metrics but most importantly pounds donated by growers/producers, community service hours by a group or individual volunteer, and pounds distributed to receiving agencies. 


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