Farmers and growers across the country sometimes have no choice but to leave areas of crops unharvested and these get left or ploughed back in the soil. This happens for a variety of reasons, including unpredictable weather reducing demand, overproduction, and crops not meeting the cosmetic specifications required by retailers.
The Gleaning Network can offer free teams of volunteers to salvage this fresh, nutritious food from your farm and direct it to those that need it most, such as homeless hostels and charities. To date, they have salvaged tonnes of excellent but unharvested British produce, including apples, cabbages, cauliflowers, spring greens and kale, and redistributed them to charities such as FareShare and the Best Before Project. Here's some more info, a video, and pictures.
In the US, where extensive gleaning networks already exist, a network of 900 growers and over 400,000 volunteers have helped the Society of St Andrews save more than 164 million pounds of food for America's hungry since its inception in 1988.
The Gleaning Network is interested in any quantities above 1 tonne of produce, but will consider lower quantities for lighter fruit and vegetables. One-off gleaning days are fine, as are multiple gleanings. All harvesting and transport is coordinated by the Gleaning Network, for minimum hassle to growers. They are happy to liaise with farmers and growers, come on a day of your choosing, and supervise volunteers to ensure all farm rules are followed while volunteers are on site, and to ensure health and safety requirements are complied with.
The Gleaning Network is growing a small London-based operation into a national network, with hubs currently being set up in Manchester, Preston, Cambridge, Bristol, Brighton and Kent.
If you would like to host a gleaning day over the coming year, or find out more about gleaning opportunities, contact Martin at the Gleaning Network at bWFydGluQGZlZWRpbmc1ay5vcmc= or on 07816088210.