Frequently Asked Questions: Gleaning with FAH
What is gleaning?
Gleaning is the act of collecting the remaining crops from farm fields, after the commercial harvesting process is complete. The practice dates back to early civilizations. In fact, the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament command that farmers leave the corners of their fields unharvested, and do not return to gather any produce that is dropped or overlooked in the initial harvest. These crops ("gleanings") are to be left for the poor, strangers, and others in need, to freely pick from the remnants left in harvested fields.
The practice continues today, with some minor modifications. FAH receives calls from farmers statewide, inviting us to bring volunteers to glean in their fields. Sometimes, this is the traditional gleaning of crops left behind after harvest (overlooked, dropped, or left because they were not yet ripe). Other times, farms merely find themselves with surplus crops, without the staff or customers to make it profitable to harvest. In any case, we always find an abundance of healthy and delicious produce, ready to be shared with our neighbors in need.
How can I participate in volunteer gleanings?
Our gleaning season generally goes from early June to late December. The best way to learn about volunteer gleaning opportunities is to join our email list. We do not have a set schedule or calendar for gleaning, because farming is unpredictable. Opportunities often come up at the last minute, depending on factors like weather, daily sales, and crop ripening speeds. As farmers let us know what crops are available, typically with 2-5 days notice, we send out emails with sign-up sheets to recruit volunteers.
If you wish to plan a volunteer event for a group of ten or more people, we can attempt to schedule a gleaning in advance. Click here to submit a request.
Where are gleanings located?
FAH works with over 50 farms statewide, including around 25 farms that invite volunteers on-site to glean. Different farms will have crops available at different times of the year. For example, Buzby Farms and Lee Turkey Farms generally have corn available for us to glean in July and August. Strawberry Hill Farm and Eastmont Orchards allow apple gleanings in September and October, respectively. Hallocks U-Pick Farm often invites us to glean potatoes and cabbage in November and December. Note that all gleanings must be scheduled through FAH, not the farms.
How many people can attend a gleaning?
Most gleaning events require 10-20 volunteers, though sometimes we only need a few hands and sometimes groups can be as large as 50. This depends on crop availability and the size of the farm.
Can children attend gleanings and packing events?
Children ages 10+ are always welcome to attend. Gleaning is a great activity for children of this age, because they have the physical strength and stamina to work in the fields and it can be a very rewarding community service project for them. While certain events, like apple picking, may be fine for younger children, they may struggle in hot weather and with heavier crops. Feel free to reach out with questions about any particular event. Note that parents and/or youth group leaders will need to sign volunteer waivers for each child.
What should we bring/wear to gleanings?
Volunteers should wear closed-toe sneakers or boots, and clothes that you will not mind getting dirty. Fields can be muddy or sandy, and farming is messy work! We also recommend sunscreen and hats for sun protection. Most crops do not require gloves, though you are welcome to bring your own if you prefer. We will provide any other equipment we need. We will also provide water bottles on hot days, though we always appreciate if gleaners bring their own reusable water bottles.
Will we glean in harsh weather conditions?
We do work in the summer heat, though we will likely cancel if temperatures are above 95 degrees with sunshine. When working in the heat, we plan for short 2-hour events and encourage volunteers to take frequent water/shade breaks. Still, you should feel free to discontinue work if you are not feeling well. We want our volunteers to have a safe and enjoyable experience! Farm work is certainly difficult in the heat, so if you have concerns, we recommend that you join us in the milder weather of spring and fall.
As for rain and storm, our staff will follow the weather forecast closely and attempt to give volunteers advanced notice of any changes or cancelations. We make decisions on a case-by-case basis, but will generally continue with a gleaning in light rain, but cancel in heavier rain and thunderstorms.
Where do the crops go after harvest?
Farmers Against Hunger delivers produce year-round to a network of hunger relief agencies across the state, including food pantries, soup kitchens, senior facilities, and shelters. We deliver weekly to a set of around 40 agencies in Camden, Trenton, Mt Holly, and Browns Mills, and more sporadically to another 40+ organizations (on a rotating basis or when extra produce is available). The produce gleaned by volunteers is supplemented by produce from various farms, grocery stores and wholesalers.
Can food pantry volunteers attend gleanings and bring produce back to their pantries?
Yes! We encourage registered food pantries to send volunteers to gleanings, and we will happily to send some of the gleaned produce back with them. Please brings crates or boxes for transport and let us know beforehand, so we can plan to reserve some of the harvest for you.
How far in advance can group gleanings be scheduled?
This is quite variable, and depends on the target date (including weekend vs. weekday), group size, and group location, which will in turn determine the farm location and crop to be harvested. Generally, summer gleanings (Jun–Aug) are easiest to schedule in advance at a corn farm and fall gleanings (Sep–Oct) are easiest to schedule at apple orchards. In any case, please feel free to submit your request, with as much detail as possible, and we will do our best to schedule "tentative" gleanings as far in advance as we can.
Is the New Jersey Agricultural Society part of the state Department of Agriculture or the USDA?
No, we are not affiliated with the state or federal Department of Agriculture, though we do receive grant funding from both the NJDA and USDA. The NJ Agricultural Society is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, with Farmers Against Hunger as one of its key programs.
Last updated: Sep 13, 2020