Large industrial farms commonly grow their crops in rows wide enough for agriculture machinery to drive through for a number of reasons: planting, spraying fertilizer or pesticides/herbicides, watering, harvesting, and tilling the soil. This method is ideal for mass producing a single type of crop. Corn and soybeans are the two most common row crops, but any type of fruit or vegetable can be grown this way.
Farms can have several hazards for volunteers. Extra caution is necessary when in the fields to avoid danger. Spacial awareness is very important for all of the volunteers. As guests at the farm where customers typically don’t go, there are rules to follow when in the field:
No pets are allowed
Volunteers must stay in the designated area assigned by the gleaning coordinator
Bathroom use in the fields is prohibited. Hands must be washed prior to returning. Wastewater is to be collected.
Verify with the farmer the proper paths to take to the field or if special clothing is necessary.
Leave no trace. All trash is to be collected.
Verify any containers or transportation beds have been cleaned prior to produce contact
Clean tools before and after gleaning, collect wastewater if washing on the farm.
These rules are said verbally before the volunteers go out to pick, and making sure all volunteers have signed liability waivers, are wearing the proper clothes to pick in, have sun protection, hydration, and are in good health. Gleans typically happen in the morning when it is cooler outside, between 8:30am-12:00pm. By noon, it warms up and is not ideal to glean anymore due to the safety of the volunteers, but it is up to their schedules how long they would like to glean for. In the fields there is no shade, so emphasizing sun protection and hydration will keep everyone comfortable.
Research what tools are needed to harvest the crops being donated, or ask the farmer for any tips.
Leafy greens may require machetes
Berries may require disposable gloves to prevent volunteers hands from being stained
Potatoes and onions may require mesh bags or tarps for gathering larger amounts
Keeping a portable bin with all materials needed for gleaning, as well as a first-aid kit and organization brochures and cards, will help to keep materials organized and portable. This should be stored in the truck at the field for easy access. A truck and/or trailer should be used to lead the volunteers through the field on designated field roads. This will make it easier for the volunteers to load the truck. If there is no room for a truck, have volunteers place full bins/boxes/buckets at the end of a row for the truck to pick up. It is essential for the group to record all pounds gleaned. Farmers will need to know what kind of produce was collected and how much for their tax purposes. Keep track of different produce separately. If the donations are separated to several agencies, accurately track how many pounds went to each agency.
Measuring produce can be done in three ways:
Donate all gathered produce to a food bank. They typically have scales and give you an accurate weight upon receiving the donation.
Bring a scale to the field. This can be a digital bathroom scale that shows pounds to the .1 pound. Have volunteers pick produce into the same type of bin, box, or bucket and keep track of how many is collect. Make an estimate of the weight: number of bins/boxes/buckets collected X the weight of a full bins/boxes/buckets. You can always weigh each bin, box, or bucket individually and add it all up at the end of the event.
Use a box that is appropriate for the type of produce you are collecting and estimate how many boxes would fit into the bed of a truck or a trailer. This can be done by simple math: how many boxes across (width) X how many boxes deep (length) X how many boxes high (height). Based on how full the bed or trailer is with produce, you can estimate the pounds.
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.