This page provides answers to common questions that our supporters and volunteers have asked. If you don’t find what you are looking for pleasecontact us!
What is gleaning?
Gleaning is the act of collecting surplus crops from farmers' fields. For hundreds of years, gleaning was an important custom for working people in rural communities, and a key method of improving food security for the poor.
Today, Boston Area Gleaners practices the same method. Since 2004, we have collaborated with farmers and organized groups of volunteers to harvest surplus crops from local fields. We distribute the high-quality, nutritious fruits and vegetables to food banks, pantries, and meal programs across the region.
Why do crops go to waste?
Farming is unpredictable. Weather, pests, and market conditions make growing food an imprecise science, so farmers plant extra to ensure they will have enough produce to sell throughout the year. When crops flourish, farmers might not be able to sell all of the food. Up to 20% of the food grown on farms is never harvested. Many farmers would donate this surplus themselves, but cannot afford the labor to harvest and distribute it.
...And spread the word! It makes a difference every time you tell a friend or colleague about how gleaning supports our community.
CAN COMMUNITY OR CORPORATE GROUPS VOLUNTEER?
Due to COVID-19 precautions, we have suspended private group workdays for the 2020 season. We hope to reintroduce them in the future!
HOW MUCH FOOD DOES BOSTON AREA GLEANERS rescue EACH YEAR?
In 2019, we rescued more than one million pounds of produce. We distributed these nutritious fruits and vegetables to our partner hunger relief agencies that serve our food-insecure neighbors. To learn more about out impact check out our 2019 Impact Report!
Since we began 2004, we have gleaned over 3.8 million pounds of fresh, local produce for the benefit of people in need. We hope to continue to capture more crops every single year.
Who are Boston Area Gleaners' partners?
We currently partner with over 80 farms in eastern Mass, and the list is growing. If you are a farmer who wants to donate produce, click here to learn more.
We also parter with over 50 direct distribution agencies. With the help of our partner agencies, gleaned produce is distributed to 2000+ hunger relief organizations in eastern Mass. If you work for a hunger relief agency that would like to receive produce, pleaseclick here.
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How does covid-19 affect boston area gleaners' activities?
This current public health crisis calls for us to be stringent in our health & safety measures. At the same time, disruptions to the economy and food supply chain as a result of COVID-19 mean that our work is more important now than ever.
Our on-farm gleaning this season has been re-engineered in accordance with state and CDC guidelines to keep our volunteers, staff, and community safe. Please view our COVID-19 Volunteer Protocols to learn more.
As part of our relief efforts, we are also contracting with the USDA through their Farmers to Families Food Box Program to distribute thousands of pre-packed boxes of produce per week to hunger relief partners in the region.
To join us on a trip, you must first register as a volunteer on our site. Once registered, you'll be able to sign up for any open trip that fits your schedule on our Trips Page!
If a trip is full, you can add your name to the waitlist. You'll be emailed if a space opens up on the roster.
Do I need prior experience to Volunteer?
We train all volunteers in the field. No experience necessary!
When you arriveat the farm, our staff will provide a brief orientation with helpful tips about the property and how to harvest the crops.
WHERE ARE THE TRIPS AND HOW DO I GET THERE?
We harvest at farms throughout Eastern Massachusetts. Volunteers drive themselves to the farms. We usually try to stay within 1 hour (~40 mile radius) of our office in Waltham. Each trip posting on our site includes location information, so you can decide what works for you before you sign up.
In the past we have arranged carpools, but unfortunately due to COVID-19 precautions we are not able to coordinate carpooling this year. Volunteers not living in the same household are strongly advised against sharing a vehicle.
WHEN DO YOU HOST TRIPS AND HOW CAN I BE NOTIFIED OF UPCOMING OPPORTUNITIES?
During the harvest season (June - December), we send weekly emails to registered volunteers detailing upcoming trips. You can also go to our Trips Page to see what's coming up!
We glean most days of the week, including weekends. Trips are typically in the morning in the summer and in the afternoons in the fall. They usually last 2-3 hours in the field, not including travel time to and from the farm.
Harvesting is unpredictable and depends on weather and crop readiness, so we may sometimes schedule trips & alert volunteers of new opportunities with as little as 24 hours notice.
WHAT DO I WEAR AND BRING WITH ME?
What to Bring, What to Wear, and Safety Tips
Face Covering: As part of our health precautions this season, we are requiring that volunteers wear face coverings at all times while on-site. We recommend a lightweight mask.
Shoes: Wear sturdy, closed‐toed shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. No sandals! In the spring and fall when the fields are muddy, rubber boots work well.
Clothing: Long sleeves and long pants are highly recommended for protecting your skin from plant irritants, the sun, and ticks. Dress in layers, the mornings can be chilly but once the sun comes out it can easily get hot. Clothing that breathes and wicks water is useful. In general, wear clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty. We are out in all kinds of weather. Clothing that is comfortable for bending, lifting and walking is best.
Hats: Wear a hat to keep you warm and to protect you from the sun.
We supply all the gloves & tools: To comply with FDA regulations, volunteers are not allowed to use personal gloves or tools that they have brought from home.
Water: Bring plenty of water, this can’t be emphasized enough! Drink a lot of it (especially when it is hot out!).
Sunscreen: Even on cloudy days it is important to have sun protection.
Bugs and Plant Irritants: Please keep in mind that we will be out in nature! Mosquitos, ticks, and poison ivy can all be present on farms. We carry bug spray and poison ivy wash in our First Aid supplies, but preventing exposure with long pants and long sleeve shirts is the best line of defense.
Food: Volunteers are asked to eat before the trip. As a health precaution for the 2020 season, eating on-site is discouraged in order to minimize hand-to-mouth contact. Those who require snacks during physical activity for health reasons, however, are absolutely encouraged to bring food.
Bathrooms are not usually available at gleaning sites, so please plan accordingly.
Medications: If you have allergies to plants or insects, please let the trip leader know and bring any medication that you will need in case of an allergic reaction. On the farms, we are often far away from medical service. If you have other potentially life‐threatening health conditions, please inform the trip leader, rest when you need to, ask for help, etc.
Safety: Volunteers are responsible for managing their own health on Trips. If you have a medical condition that requires attention and could be a safety risk while working in the fields, please keep necessary medications on you at all times and notify the trip leader so that they may assist you in case of emergency.
IS THERE A MINIMUM AGE FOR VOLUNTEERING?
The minimum age requirement to volunteer with our organization is 13. Gleaners under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian. Minors must register as a volunteer.
DO I HAVE TO STAY FOR THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF A GLEANING TRIP?
Because space is limited on many Gleaning Trips, we ask that you register to glean only when you can arrive on time and stay until the harvest is complete. Most Gleaning Trips involve 2-3 hours of harvesting, not including travel time. There are some trips when you are able to leave early or the harvest is finished earlier than expected. Please let us know if you plan to leave early - this may determine your roster status, depending on the trip.
ARE VOLUNTEERS ALLOWED TO TAKE HOME PRODUCE FROM GLEANING TRIPS?
On some gleaning trips, volunteers may take home limited amounts of surplus crops. Please ask the trip leader if you can harvest for personal use on a case-by-case basis.
hAS THE PRODUCE BEEN SPRAYED WITH CHEMICALS?
We harvest at a wide variety of properties, from large orchards to small urban farming plots. If you have a specific concern about sprayed produce, please email the Trip Leader for the specific trip which you would like to attend, and we will do our best to find out all pertinent information from the farmer.
MY PLANS CHANGED, HOW DO I CANCEL MY VOLUNTEERING?
Each trip confirmation email includes a cancellation link.If your schedule changes and you are unable to make it out to volunteer, please cancel so someone else can take your spot.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY CONTACT INFORMATION/ADDRESS CHANGES?
If want to change your email address, phone number or mailing address in our volunteer system, visit your Volunteer Profile Page. If you encounter any issues, please email our webmaster (matt [@] bostonareagleaners.org).
TERMS OF PARTICIPATION
By registering as a volunteer with Boston Area Gleaners, you are agreeing to the following terms of participation:
I will abide by the Good Samaritan Law, and will not hold farmers, volunteers, Boston Area Gleaners, or any sponsoring organization responsible for any accident, injury, or other loss incurred while participating in the program.
I will read and check off the Release and Waiver of Liability, Assumption of Risk, and Indemnity Agreement as well as the Volunteer Health & Hygiene Policy and COVID-19 Protocols when I sign up for Gleaning Trips and prior to participating in any volunteer activities.
I will comply with all Boston Area Gleaners food safety policies and procedures and adhere to the instructions provided by the Gleaning Coordinator to ensure product integrity.
I will follow all directions given to me by the Gleaning Coordinator. I will handle produce gently. Our goal is to harvest food with care and respect for the farmer, for the land, for the food, for the people who will eat the food, and for the volunteers who are donating their time.
I will not pick any produce for my personal usage without prior authorization from the Gleaning Coordinator.
I will be respectful of other participants at Gleaning Trips.
To ensure my own personal safety and the safety of others, I will communicate to the Gleaning Coordinator any personal medical conditions that may compromise or affect my ability to safely engage in a Gleaning Trip.
I will promptly cancel my roster spot if, after signing up for a Gleaning Trip, I find that I am unable to attend.
I will be punctual in arriving at Gleaning Trips and communicate directly with the Gleaning Coordinator if I will be late.
I will not bring other individuals to Gleaning Trips who have not signed up and been added to the roster unless approved by a Boston Area Gleaners staff member.
I will always stay within the assigned gleaning area and pick only the produce I was instructed to pick.
I understand that Gleaning Trips are conducted on private property that the owner has granted permission to enter and glean. I will conduct myself in a manner that is respectful of the owner's property at all times.
I will park only in the areas designated by the Gleaning Coordinator.
I will follow the rule of "Pack it in, pack it out" at all gleaning sites. I will remove trash and my personal items from the field.
I will not purposefully damage the tools/equipment belonging to Boston Area Gleaners and/or partner farms and will return any tools/equipment that may have been provided to me.
I will not smoke at Gleaning Trips. NO TOBACCO PRODUCTS are allowed on any farm. Even unlit cigarettes or hands that have recently touched tobacco can pose a threat to plants in the form of a highly contagious mosaic virus (i.e. please wash your hands before gleaning if you smoke!).
I will not arrive under the influence of, bring, or consume alcohol and/or drugs on Gleaning Trips.
I will not bring firearms to Gleaning Trips.
I will not bring any animals to Gleaning Trips. No dogs are allowed at any gleaning site, except service dogs (but please check with us first).
I understand that Boston Area Gleaners reserves the right to deny me entry to a Gleaning Trip, or require me to leave a Gleaning Trip, or remove me from the registration list if I do not follow these Terms of Participation.
I understand that these Terms of Participation are subject to change without notice.