Friday, March 25, 2011

What is Gleaning?

What is Gleaning? It's a practice I've only just learned of, so bear with me if my information is inaccurate. But I think I have the general gist of it and really want to share it with all of our gardeners.
Millet  Gleaners
The Gleaners by Millet (II), Jean-Fran├žois [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The following information comes from internet (this is my skeptical face) and mostly from Wikipedia. But we'll start with Princeton's dictionary and suspend skepticism to learn what we can from Wikipedia. (Sorry, I was reared to doubt the validity of the information found on the internet).

According to the Princeton online dictionary: A gleaner is defined as a person who picks up grain left in the field by the harvesters.1Heading over to Wikipedia, "Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. Some ancient cultures promoted gleaning as an early form of a welfare system."2

Hmmmm, this is where my interest got piqued. So, if the bulk of the crop were harvested and someone came in afterward and picked up the remainder that got lost in the process or wasn't considered "market quality" - how much would they actually be able to harvest? Would it be worthwhile?

Well, according to the Society of St. Andrew (a group dedicated to the process of gleaning), their organization alone (there are many gleaning organizations) accomplished the following in 2010 (Jan - Nov)3:
Date Issued: 12/08/10
 For Period: January 1 through November 30, 2010 

Total Pounds Saved: 26,329,829 (up 7.1% over 2009)
Total Gleaning Network Pounds: 17,256,829 (up 21.0% over 2009)
Total Potato & Produce Project Pounds: 9,073,000 (down 12.1% from 2009)
Total Servings Provided: 78,989,487 (one pound of produce equals approx. 3 servings)
Gleaning & Potato Project Events: 3,467 (down 6.3% from 2009)
Volunteers: 29,023 (down 12.0% from 2009)
Harvest of Hope Events: 11 Events Completed / 0 more events scheduled for 2010
Historical total lbs. / servings saved & distributed by SoSA 1983 to date: 620.2 Million pounds / 1.86 Billion servings
Admin. & Fundraising Overhead: 4.4% (95.6¢ of every dollar provides food for the hungry)
Cost per serving provided: 2.3¢

Okay, color me impressed. If you had a farm, this would be fabulously productive. But really, is a contribution from an individual or community garden worthwhile? Yes!

Here is some information from Sandi Newman of the Society of St. Andrew Gleaning Network here in Jacksonville:

I would like to hear from anyone that has too much of something they grow--citrus fruit, vegetables, bananas, peaches, plums, figs, persimmons--any kind of fruit or vegetable. Last year, through the generosity of private homeowners with trees and vegetable gardens, commercial farmers and groves, community gardens, CSA (community support agriculture) farms, and of course our volunteers, we harvested and delivered nearly 160,000 lbs. of tree ripened, fresh from the vine, just-picked produce to over 30 agencies in Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Flagler, Baker, Putnam and Alachua counties in the NE FL area.

We traditionally harvest during an 8-month season: 
  • November-April is usually citrus fruit, 
  • February-April field crops like cabbage and broccoli, 
  • May-June strawberries, blueberries and potatoes.

I invite individual volunteers, groups like scouts, churches, civic associations, schools and others to join us in a gleaning event.

The best way to contact me is by e-mail: for either volunteers or those offering something for us to harvest.

The national website for Society of St. Andrew is
- Sandi Newman 
Society of St. Andrew Gleaning Network 
Jacksonville , FL

One way to find information about food recovery activities across the Nation is to call USDA's National Hunger Hotline "1-800-GLEAN-IT" toll-free hotline. It is an easy-to-reach source of information on food recovery and how to volunteer or donate food. They were only able to direct me to the Society of St. Andrew's Gleaning Network as an organization which participates in gleaning in Florida. 

I did find the National Hunger Hotline at this site: which has a list of locations for Florida but with no dates associated with the information, it may be out of date. Oddly, the Society of St. Andrew is only listed as a gleaning agency in Virginia (their national headquarters) even though they are nationwide while there was a long list of other agencies listed for our area although they may not handle fresh produce.4 

1 "Gleaner." Web. 23 Mar. 2011. <>.
2 Web. Wikipedia contributors. "Gleaning." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 Feb. 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2011.
3 Society of St. Andrew. Statistics Update. Society of Saint Andrew. 08 Dec. 2010. Web. 23 Mar. 2011. <>.
4 "Gleaning Initiative: Appendix B." U.S. Department of Agriculture Home Page. Web. 23 Mar. 2011. <>.