Keep a running list of your contacts. It is very helpful to keep an excel spreadsheet of your contacts. Put each farmer on a separate sheet and keep track of when you make contact with them. Write down what crops they grow and when these might available. Often a farmer will say “call me back in a few weeks.” Make sure to write that down and perhaps write a reminder on your calendar to make the phone call.
Flexibility! You may get last minute gleaning opportunities from a farmer or a gleaning maybe cancelled last minute. The crop seasons may be earlier or later than the previous year. Being timely with farmers will open up more opportunities with that farmer and increase your reputation with the farming community.
When searching for farmers, it is helpful to be bi-lingual or know simple phrases when approaching farm workers that you may see in the field. This could help you identify who’s their supervisor or the farmer. DO NOT cross into a field when approaching workers harvesting for safety reason. Wait until they are finished or flag down someone on the field road.
Cater your communication style with volunteers and farmers based on their age group. Older volunteers prefer phone calls and physical mailings as a form of communication while younger volunteers prefer texts, emails, and social media.
Transportation to a field may be difficult for some volunteers in rural communities. Consider creating a carpool with other volunteers or open your vehicle for volunteers to travel with you. This practice keeps the opportunity for people to volunteer and their access to fresh produce open.
Some communities may be divided by race or socioeconomic status and have their own community/neighborhood leaders. Make sure to connect with them and listen to what their needs and preferences are. Distributing produce to one agency in a particular part town may never reach those who need it the most and may even be wasted.
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.