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.
Farmers’ Markets: walk around these; 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.
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.
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:
farmer can’t sell the food (it would cost more to harvest than it could be sold for)
the food may have some damage from weather (too much rain)
For u-picks, if they are not having customers, it will help their plants to keep producing if they are picked (e.g., strawberries)
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 insures 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.
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 harvest and when might gleaning be possible
How many acres do they grow
Where are their fields located
Help farmers to understand what your organization does. 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.
Some 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.
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!
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.
If you are uncertain about packaging, ask the farmer what she or he would suggest.
Let the farmer know that you will be back in touch when you have made arrangements for gleaning.
Always make certain that you have confirmed with the farmer, the date and time that volunteers will be at the field.
Society of St. Andrew Georgia Gleaning Network opened in Tifton in 2007. It is a southwest Georgia town with a population of about 20,000 citizens but rich with crop farmers in the immediate area. Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) covers a gleaning operation for all of the state of Georgia, overseen by the Program Coordinator. The state currently has one Area Coordinator in Cleveland, Georgia, covering the mountain region in North Georgia. The VISTA works alongside the Program Coordinator in Tifton, gathering best practices of gleaning to expand the gleaning network to other regions in south Georgia. Being located in a Southern U.S., rural area presents several challenges including transportation for both volunteers and recipients, aging populations, lack of economic development in small communities, lack of access to fresh produce, and racially divided communities. Georgia ranks ninth in the nation when it comes to food insecurity for the senior population, and overall food insecurity for the state is 16.7 percent in 2015. As of November 2017, the SoSA Gleaning Network with has collected 1.3 million pounds of produce that has been distributed to community agencies throughout Georgia.