Resources for Gleaning Groups

3. Farmers & Growers

Top Tip!

Get an understanding of your agricultural area:

What type of crops are being grown and when are they harvested?

Is the region dominated by agribusiness or smaller independent farms?

Finding Farmers & Growers

Here we provide tips on how to find farmers and growers in your region. In the section below we give tips on how to contact them (and hopefully arrange a gleaning day).

You may find it useful to compile a list or database of farming contacts. If you choose to do this, it is important to make sure you are aware of the regulations regarding data protection (known as GDPR).

Where to look:

At Feedback, we store all of our farm information, colour coded based on how likely a lead they are, in an excel sheet. You can find an example in our ‘how to stay organised‘ chapter.

Contacting farmers

Food waste can be a sensitive topic for farmers – after all, it affects their livelihood – so please be considerate in your conversations and communications with them. Also, gleaning is often a new and unfamiliar concept for farmers; the language you use and the questions you ask are therefore key to your chances of bringing them on board.

Top Tip!

The best time to catch farmers are:

  • morning, lunch time, end of a working day
  • outside of harvest season
  • rainy days and dark winter afternoons

Talking to the right person

Calling farmers directly will yield the most chance of success. Generally speaking, most farmers will only occasionally access emails.

Try to get through to the farmer themselves, as they are the ones who know about the surplus and can let you onto the farm.

For larger agri-businesses, there may be several people, teams or departments you can speak to. Some useful departments to speak to might be: Production, CSR (corporate social responsibility), Marketing.

Case study

Imagine a farmer who, in an average year, cannot sell 40% of their cabbages as they do not meet cosmetic standards. This may not be regarded as waste as it happens every year and is effectively planned for.

If you were to call that farmer and ask if they have any waste, they could quite reasonably answer no. If, instead you enquire about unharvested, surplus, down-graded, unsold, out-graded or rejected produce, you might receive a very different answer.

Saying the right things…

There is no single, correct approach when talking to farmers, but the key point to remember is that not all farmers have the same interpretation of food waste; and certain words, phrases or approaches can mean different things to different farmers.

Farmers are busy people, don’t be disheartened if they don’t answer, keep trying!

Key words

DowngradedOut gradedLeft over

Representing The Gleaning Network

When reaching out to farmers, you will representing yourself, or your community group. However, you may want to mention that you are part of ‘The Gleaning Network’ and explain that you are part of a national network of groups who work with farmers to harvest and redistribute surplus.

Food Waste Fact

Unsustainable farming methods are negatively impacting our climate and our future ability to grow food (IPCC 2019)


Tips for securing a glean

Scheduling a gleaning day is dependent upon:

  1. Your availability
  2. The availability of the farm
  3. The time frame in which the crop is able to be harvested before it turns

Key information to ask the grower is ‘What is the latest date we can pick this crop?’

Some food for thought…

Waste occurs at different stages of the process

Explain to the farmer that you want to know about any surplus crops, not only those left in the field (e.g the packing and grading shed)

Likely leads

There’s often a narrow window where waste produce will be gleanable before it goes bad, and it’s the worst feeling to miss that window. Maintain regular contact with your farmers and call back multiple times in one day if you feel it’s appropriate.

A little goes a long way

Farmers think in big quantities. Let them know that even a few hundred kilograms of produce may be very valuable to the charities who receive your donations of gleaned fruit and vegetables.

Gleaners can pick and choose

Labour is one of the most expensive input costs for farmers, so they are used to making decisions based on economics and efficiency.

For example, an apple farmer might estimate that only 30 per cent of the fruit in one particular orchard is good enough to sell – and therefore not cost efficient to pay their labourers to work in that orchard.

Gleaners volunteer their time and are not constrained by cosmetic standards!

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