End of market gleaning program

To have surplus picked up at the end of market day at YOUR farmers’ market, why not start an  End-of-Market Gleaning Program? An easy-to-implement program that provides an alternative to feeding your perfectly edible surpluses to your animals or compost pile.

Staff at your local County Extension Office working with their Maine Harvest for Hunger program are willing to set up a connection with local food pantries to pick up surplus from your farmers’ market at the end of each market day.

Check out this article from the Bangor Daily News about the great success of the after-market gleaning programs in the Bangor area.

The Basic Idea

The mission of the Maine Harvest for Hunger is to connect fresh, locally-grown produce with food pantries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens that provide food to those in need.

Occasionally members of farmers’ markets have unsold produce at the end of the day. Maine Harvest for Hunger aims to remove any barriers that prevent unwanted farmer’s market products from getting to those in need by providing dedicated volunteers willing to distribute this food to food pantries and shelters in the market’s area.

The following is an outline describing how any farmers’ market can begin the process of having food pantry volunteers arrive at market to gather surplus market products.

Where to Start

Find out if all or most of your market’s members are open to this idea, and determine dates when gleaning would be appropriate. Depending on the recipient organization, donated items may not be limited to produce, but can include almost anything your market offers for sale. If your market members are interested, contact one of the Extension staff listed on this brochure and tell them you want to start an End-of-Market Gleaning Program at your farmers’ market.

Procedure for Pick-up at a Farmers’ Market

Here is the procedure developed in the Spring of 2011 that was successfully used at the Orono Farmers’ Market from June to October, 2011:

  • Upon request from a farmers’ market local Extension staff will inquire about the days, times and season that gleaners are wanted at your market.
  • The Extension staff will then work with a small group of food pantry volunteers who have been oriented to the pick-up process at your market.
  • Volunteers will come to the market on any desired market days throughout the busy season.
  • Volunteers will arrive just before the end of the market with their own bags, boxes, and coolers with ice paks.
  • Volunteers will keep track of what donations came from which farms.
  • At the end of the season, the coordinating Extension staff or recipient organization will write a letter to each market member donor acknowledging the dollar amount of donations for tax purposes.
  • The value of gleaned food is figured at the rate of $1.69/lb.

A few Important Tips

  • Be prepared: Since gleaning will happen near the end of the market day when market members may be busy consolidating, picking up, or dealing with late shoppers, it is helpful to everyone if market members take a few minutes before the gleaners arrive to decide what items will be offered for gleaning.
  • Be clear: Gleaners may be a bit shy about taking food that only a few minutes earlier was being offered for sale. Therefore it it useful to develop some succinct ways to let the gleaners know what they may take. One useful phrase is “You can take any or all of what’s in this basket”.
    They might not need it all: If you are the sixth person at the market today who has offered a half bushel of lettuce, the gleaners may recognize that their food pantry cannot use all that is available.
  • It’s OK to say no: Every market member may not have a donation every week. A simple phrase like “Nothing this week!” lets the gleaner know they can go on to the next stand.

Some First Year Figures

Here are some results of the Program’s first year (June to October, 2011) at the Orono Farmers’ Market:

  • 19 out of 32 market members participated.
  • 3,178 pounds of food were gleaned.
  • Value of food gleaned was $5,371.
  • 6 area food pantries & shelters were served.

Who to Contact

Below is a list of UMaine Cooperative Extension contacts to connect with if you’re interested in a gleaning program at your market. (Note that all counties may not be able to support the distribution system exactly as described here. Counties will modify pickup procedures according to their volunteer capacity.)

Androscoggin and Sagadahoc– Tori Jackson, 353-5550, [email protected]

Aroostook– Linda Trickey, 561-8123, [email protected]

Cumberland– Pamela Hargest, 781-6099, [email protected]

Franklin– Dave Fuller, 778-4650, [email protected]

Hancock and Washington– Marjorie Peronto, 667-8212, [email protected]

Kennebec– Caragh Fitzgerald, 622-7546, [email protected]

Knox, Lincoln, and Waldo– Liz Stanley, 832-0343, [email protected]

Oxford– Rebecca Long, 743-6329, [email protected]

Penobscot– Kate Garland, 942-7396, [email protected]

Piscataquis– Donna Coffin, 564-3301, [email protected]

Somerset – Kathy Hopkins, 474-9622, [email protected]

York– Sue Tkacik, 324-2814, [email protected]


Good Samaritan Law

The Federal Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996:

  • Protects you from liability when you donate to a non-profit organization;
  • Protects you from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient;
  • Standardizes donor liability exposure. You or your legal counsel do not need to investigate liability laws in your state; and
  • Sets a floor of “gross negligence” or intentional misconduct for persons who donate grocery products. Gross negligence is defined as “voluntary and conscious conduct by a person with knowledge (at the time of conduct) that the conduct is likely to be harmful to the health or well-being of another person.”

If you would prefer delivering the food on your own, a County Extension agent would be happy to help you find a food cupboard that is interested in the products that you have to offer.

Let your local Extension staff know if you have suggestions as to how to make this program work in a smoother and more efficient manner.

Learn more about how your market and/or its members can donate to food pantries at Feeding The Hungry.

The End-of-Market Gleaning Program is a project of the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine Harvest for Hunger.  www.umaine.edu/harvest-for-hunger

Thanks to Kate Garland of Penobscot County Extension and Tom Roberts of Snakeroot Organic Farm for their work on helping to develop this program.

About Tom Roberts

When I started attending the Brewer Farmers’ Market back in August of 1983, my sole concern was being able to sell the produce my farm was growing at a good price. After attending market for a year or two, I began to realize that how the market was organized had a great impact on my sales. And how the market was organized also influenced how it made decisions about dues, new members, what could be sold at market, and how it promoted itself—and this, too, had an impact on my sales. So I got involved in the market’s steering committee and began to understand how various market members thought the market should operate. Some wanted a market czar, some wanted everyone to be allowed to do their own thing. But everyone seemed to agree that if the market as a whole did well, then so did they.