Farmers and individual gardeners provide the donations necessary for the Society of St. Andrew to function. Food providers, therefore, are at the top of the supply chain and are treated with upmost respect. Farmers names and information are not given out unless given permission for their protection.
A. Finding Farmers
Farmers’ markets: walk around markets and mingle; talk to the growers or if someone else is selling for a farmer, find out the farmer’s name and phone number. This is also a good way to see what is grown in the area
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. This is a great way to connect with current providers in off seasons and gives a chance to get SoSA’s name out there to new providers. Examples of these shows include Blueberry Growers’ Association meetings, equipment expos, etc.
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. Sometimes they will give the name and phone numbers of farmers and sometimes they won’t. This is helpful in spreading the word to farms that may otherwise be difficult to contact.
Farm Service Agents: Make contact with these folks. 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: The 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 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 “laypersons” in the field.
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. A model script to start out with might be: “Hi, This is (name) and I work for Society of St. Andrew. We are an organization that works with farmers to glean their fields and get the produce to needy persons.” Tell the farmer in general terms what SoSA 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 SoSA and then say that you could mail information to the farmer and you will call back after they have seen the material.
Selling points of gleaning:
Field Supervisor: Let the farmer know that there is a trained volunteer 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 we schedule a specific time when our gleaners are in the field with a field supervisor and gleaners from SoSA 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: 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?
Is it an Organic farm?
Are children under 18 allowed in the field under supervision?
It is very helpful to keep an excel spreadsheet of all contacts made. 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.
Help farmers to understand what we do. Help them to know that we are concerned for them; we don’t want to take any produce that they could sell, just what would otherwise go to waste. We don’t allow our recipients to sell the gleaned produce or compete with the farmers’ sales in any way.
C. Maintaining Contact with Farmers
Some farmers like SoSA to keep in contact with them year round—even when they are not growing or we 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 and 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 Christmas card (provided by Regional Office). In January, send them their tax letter and a letter of thanks (Regional Offices/Program Coordinators handle this). In the spring, check with the farmer to see what they will be planting that year.
D. Scheduling Gleanings with a Farmer
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 us 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: This is crucial because it determines what the optimum number of gleaners would be and how many/what size vehicles are needed to transport the crop.
If you are uncertain about packaging, ask the farmer what she or he would suggest for packaging.
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 Gleaners will be at the field.
Since 1995, the Society of St. Andrew has operated a statewide, volunteer-driven Gleaning Network in Florida that coordinates with local farmers, thousands of volunteers, and food providing agencies. The Florida Gleaning Network is going strong, providing millions of pounds of fresh produce for the hungry each year. Though an agriculturally diverse state, citrus has been a top yielding produce in Florida; with four citrus drives per year, Florida gleaners save and distribute over a half million pounds of sweet oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and lemons. In addition to citrus, the Florida office salvages everything from onions and white potatoes to strawberries, cabbage, cucumbers, squash, and that ever so famous Zellwood sweet corn.
The Florida office is located in Central Florida (Orlando) and oversees all projects and events for the state. The state office team holds two full-time employees: a Regional Director currently for Florida and Georgia, and a Program Coordinator, along with a Harvest Against Hunger Americorps VISTA. The state is sectioned off into North, South, East, West, Central, and Panhandle. Each area holds a satellite gleaning coordinator position who works part time to carry out gleans in the area.