Resources for Gleaning Groups

4. Volunteers

Child Picking Apples

Volunteers are the heart of gleaning.

They are the people who will devote their time and energy to saving this food, and who will share your aims and values

Managing Volunteers

Gleaning days are a great way for volunteers to connect with each other and learn about our food system. We have found that the day is more often than not about community and socialising rather than saving as much food as possible, so it’s important to keep the day light-hearted and fun.

It’s easy for the volunteers to get overwhelmed with how much surplus there is to glean, so a key part of managing volunteers is managing their expectations about how much they are able to salvage (without working themselves to the bone). You don’t want your volunteers to feel like they are at agricultural boot camp!

Top Tip!

  • At the start of the gleaning day, always provide clear instructions (roping in the farmer is a great way to demonstrate best harvesting techniques)
  • Be conscious of any individuals or groups who seem less integrated into the group
  • Try to have a chat with each volunteer throughout the day
  • Be wary not to micro-manage – volunteers don’t want to feel like they are in the workplace or back at school

Volunteer coordination calls on the art of good communication skills and the ability to delegate appropriate tasks for the ability and needs of the volunteers.

We encourage you to invite a diverse group of people to your gleaning days, this means that your groups are likely to have a range of abilities and interests so always be conscious of this. There is no standardised way of managing volunteers but given the activity, it’s important volunteers know how to carry out the task they have been assigned safely, and feel comfortable with asking lots of questions.

Recruiting volunteers

If you are not already involved with your community and don’t have access to volunteer networks, below are some tips and ideas for finding your glean team

Food Waste Fact

More food is wasted in UK farms per year than retail & manufacturing combined (WRAP 2019)


Volunteer Numbers

Calculating how many volunteers you need for the job

We recommend that you consider:

Quantity of surplus

There are two factors to consider here: (1) how much food is available to be gleaned; (2) how much food can be redistributed in your region?

The number of hours you can spend gleaning

Feedback gleaning days tend to run from around 10am – 4pm (we always take a good lunch break), but sometimes it’s more appropriate to just glean for a morning.

Harvesting equipment

Sometimes the amount of equipment you have available limits how many volunteers can attend. If you only have access to 5 harvesting knives and gloves, you won’t want more than 10 volunteers (volunteers with equipment can cut the crop, those without can move, stack and pack).

Your capacity to manage and supervise volunteers

You will be responsible for the safety and wellbeing of volunteers working on a farm, where there are potential health and safety hazards. We recommend no more than 15-20 volunteers for every 1 supervisor.

Past examples of volunteer numbers on gleaning days

  • APPLES: 12 volunteers gleaned 2 tonnes of apples in 4 hours
  • CAULIFLOWERS: 15 volunteers gleaned 2.8 tonnes of cauliflowers in 5 hours
  • LEEKS: 20 volunteers gleaned 1.2 tonnes of leaks in 4 hours
  • CHERRIES: 20 volunteers gleaned 420kg of cherries in 5 hours

Farmers can often provide an estimate for the speed at which the produce can be gleaned. They can also provide useful information, such as whether the available crop is all in one field and spaced closely together.

The amount you harvest also depends on the type of volunteers that come, as well as other factors such as the weather.


When it comes to calculating how many volunteers you will need, it’s generally better to overestimate rather than underestimate. Gleaning is as much about community engagement as it is about food waste – it shouldn’t feel like exhausting hard work; volunteers will ideally work in teams and take breaks throughout the day, getting to make new friends as they go.

Callouts to volunteers

Reaching out to volunteers

Once you have a list of potential volunteers on a mailing list and glean day on the horizon, the best way to recruit is through an email mail out. At Feedback, we create light hearted call-outs, using lots of food-related puns but it’s up to you how you think you’ll best capture your volunteers interest

‘Bcc’ all your contacts in the email to protect the information of your volunteers

You may also want to promote your event outside of your mailing contacts. Key spaces for advertising your gleaning day include:

  • Social media
    • Create an advert which you can share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as posting in relevant Facebook groups
    • Add tags including #volunteering #gleaning #foodwaste
  • Local newspapers, radio and village/school newsletters
  • Other community group mailing lists

Here’s an example of a volunteer call out from a Feedback Gleaning Day

Transport logistics: getting your volunteers to the farm

Once you’ve confirmed a glean and your gleaners, you need to figure out the most efficient way to get your volunteers to the farm.

It’s worth checking the nearest bus and train stops to the farm and the rough prices from the nearest towns and cities where you expect your volunteers to be coming from. It’s not necessary to organise transport unless it is a whole group, i.e. a school group, but it’s nice to be able to provide some useful information.

Often, those who are able to drive are essential to the smooth running of your gleaning day. If you are worried that there is not an easy way to get the farm via public transport, you may want to email the drivers on your mailing list first to see if they are able to offer lifts.

Matching drivers with non-drivers:

  • Depending on how many volunteers you need, you may just want to email clusters of volunteers living either close to the farm, or close to the drivers.
  • Ask the drivers to pick up groups of volunteers from the nearest bus/train
If you are sharing contact information to connect drivers with non-drivers, always get permission and never share information without a clear reason.

Leading up to the glean

Before the event itself, send out an email to your confirmed volunteers a few days before with the following information:

  • When and where to arrive
  • What to wear
  • Your contact number
  • To bring lunch and water

You will need the following information:

  • A confirmed contact number
    • This may be different to the number they gave you on the sign up form
  • How they will be arriving
    • Train/bus/car/ride share (and with who)
Make a list for yourself of your volunteers and where they are arriving from/who they are sharing with alongside contact numbers.

Extra info

  • Take lots of photos (or assign a volunteer to be a photographer) as these photos will be key for publicising future events. Make sure you get consent from your volunteers for taking and using photos of them.
  • You might want to ask the volunteers to fill out a feedback form. This will be vital for evaluating how the day went and essential for future reporting or upcoming funding opportunities.
  • After the gleaning day, send a thank you email out to the volunteers with a link to the photos (we upload ours onto our Facebook page). Other information you may want to add include recipe ideas and the number of portions (1 tonne of fruit or vegetables translates to about 12,500 portions)


Try not to get too caught up in the logistics and enjoy it!

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