What is Gleaning 

Gleaning involves a team of volunteers going to a farm to harvest or pick up already harvested unwanted food from the farmer for donation. Gleaned food is quickly distributed to food-insecure individuals and families in the region. 

Gleaning is happening all across the country and as of June 2020, it is now an active program in the greater St. Louis area!

Benefits of Gleaning

  1. Reducing food loss on local farms by bringing volunteers to harvest what farmers aren’t able to harvest themselves.
  2. Increasing access to healthy, fresh, local food for food insecure individuals and families through Operation Food Search’s (OFS’s) network of over 200 food pantries. 
  3. Increasing connections between local farmers and their community (the gleaning volunteers), and increasing knowledge of and appreciation for farming work amongst the gleaning volunteers. 


How to Participate if You’re a Farmer

  • If you have extra food on your farm to donate, you can sign up to have a gleaning volunteer crew come out to your farm to harvest the extra food you have in the field. Contact Rae Miller, rmiller@moenviron.org, local food coordinator at Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE), to set up a gleaning event on your farm. Rae will work alongside our gleaning partner organization, Operation Food Search, to recruit a group of volunteers (around 10-15 people) for the day. 
  • We need one or two weeks notice in order to schedule a gleaning event at your farm in order to secure necessary staff and a volunteer crew. Two weeks is preferred, if possible, as one week may not always be enough time to recruit volunteers. 
  • Your farm needs to be within about an hour drive of St. Louis in order for us to be able to glean at your farm. 
  • Typically, gleanings are set up in the morning from 8:00-11:00, and can be any day Monday-Friday. We will block off 3 hours and anticipate actual harvest time to go for closer to 2 hours (8:30-10:30).


What Farmers Can Expect 

  • OFS and MCE staff will arrive around 7:30am and gleaning volunteer crew (10-15 people) will arrive around 8:00am.
  • Farmers, please note you are welcome to interact with and show the gleaning volunteers where and how to harvest, and/or you are welcome to show instructions to Rae and Jack, the gleaning crew leaders, to disseminate to the volunteers. 
  • We will bring our own harvesting boxes and bags and our own gardening gloves. 
  • During COVID-19, our volunteer crew will also be wearing masks while on your farm and will have access to hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment.
  • Since volunteers are typically committing 5 hours of time including drive time, we request that the farm allows volunteers to use your restroom. We will be sure to maintain proper COVID-19 procedures. 
  • We may also need access to harvesting equipment depending on the crop, such as buckets and a scale.
  • We will record the weight of all gleaned vegetables and OFS will report that back to the farm for use in your tax records. If you have a farm in Missouri, please ask about the tax credit options. If you do not have a farm, we will provide an official letter with OFS tax number for you all to use for a tax write off purpose.
  • Jack Baran, Food Donations Manager with OFS, will transport the gleaned food from your farm to one or more of the 200+ food pantries that participate in OFS’s network. 
  • If you have a farm store, volunteers will likely be interested in making purchases after gleaning if that’s an option.
  • We will photograph the gleaning event and spread awareness about it on social media by tagging your farm. 


How to Participate if You’re Not a Farmer


What Volunteers Can Expect 

      • Gleaning events will be posted with 1-2 weeks notice before the event day. 
      • Gleaning events are typically from 8:00-11:00am and can be any day of the business week.
      • As a volunteer, you are responsible for your own transportation to and from the farm.
      • Staff will provide volunteers with gloves, water, and hand sanitizer, but please bring your own sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, bug spray, snacks and optional personal gardening gloves.
      • Expect to work in all weather conditions and on rough, uneven terrain. 
      • Gleaning will be cancelled in the event of a thunderstorm or other unsafe weather, but gleaning will proceed during uncomfortable weather such as rain or hot, humid temperatures in the 90s. 
      • Gleaning events can be up to an hour from metro St. Louis. Please check the location of individual gleaning events before signing up.
      • You will definitely be inspired by this meaningful, hard-working activity! 


If you have any questions on our gleaning program please contact Rae Miller at rmiller@moenviron.org or Jack Baran at jack.baran@operationfoodsearch.org.