U-Pick Farms are a uniquely engaging opportunity. These farms tend to be the most ‘user-friendly’, as they are by design to be harvested by folks of all ages and skill levels. UPick produce tends also to be charismatic products like peaches, blueberries, and strawberries. Farmers will also have utensils for gleaning readily available, as they are tools used in their business. Additionally, U-Pick farms are typically far more accessible for the elderly, young, and those with limited mobility.
For the best U-Pick experience and more productive gleaners, let the volunteers know they can taste test the crops for quality control, but stress the fact that the produce is for the hungry. Additional tools and time are required for berries, as they are usually put into clamshells for distribution. U-Pick gleans that require climbing or reaching for produce such as starfruit or peaches have safety concerns over potential falls. Volunteers should be instructed on proper ladder use, and whenever possible SoSA personnel should use climbing equipment in their stead.
The Society of Saint Andrew (SoSA) can trace its humble origins to two families and a sheep shed in Big Island, Virginia in 1973. From these roots, the nation’s premier food rescue nonprofit has blossomed. SoSA’s primary function is gleaning, going into a field to harvest leftover or unwanted produce, and then giving this food to agencies free of charge. Additionally, SoSA has the Potato & Produce project, gathering truckloads of produce for distribution, and the Harvest of Hope, a retreat program for long-distance volunteers to glean and serve. Since 1995, the Society of Saint Andrew has maintained a presence throughout the state of Florida. The primary program, the Florida Gleaning Network, mobilizes over 3 thousand volunteers to gather 4 to 6 million pounds of produce annually. The Sunshine State is a veritable agricultural cornucopia, providing such produce as: onions, white potatoes, bok choy, peaches, pears, strawberries, cabbage, lemons, cucumbers, squash, starfruit, oranges, avocados, and the infamous Zellwood sweet corn.
The Florida office is located in Orlando and oversees all projects and events for the state. The state office team holds three full-time staff: the State Director, a Program Coordinator, and a Harvest Against Hunger AmeriCorps VISTA. The state is sectioned off into geographical regions: South, East, West, West Central, Central, and the Panhandle. Each area holds a satellite gleaning coordinator position who works part-time to carry out gleans in the district.