Many gleaning programs in the United States are run by organized offices, with a paid staff and infrastructure, usually funded by grants. The Gold Country Gleaners is an organization run entirely by volunteers with no budget.
When I attended the Northern California Regional Gleaners Conference in the spring and told the attendees that the Gold Country Gleaners is entirely run by volunteers, a lot of them stared at me in disbelief.
“How do you pay for your website?” Someone asked.
“One of our members pays the fee each year.” I said.
“How do you run your website and get content for the blog? You don’t have a paid content writer?”
“A few web-savvy people help out.” I said.
“But how do you get people to pick the food?” Another person asked.
A lot of our volunteers come from the populations served by Nevada County’s food pantries and service organizations. Some of our volunteers come from local faith-based organizations. Many volunteers are willing to spend a day on the farm in order to share in the harvest. Some volunteers are looking for a student project. We have a couple of people who come out to pick bruised fruit and vegetables to supplement food for livestock. Some people are looking to feed their families.
The Gold Country Gleaners split each harvest. Our general policy is that the harvest gets split three ways: 1/3 goes to the property owner, 1/3 goes to the volunteers, and 1/3 goes to our local service organizations. In truth, by the time a homeowner/farmer/gardener calls us, it is usually because they don’t want the rest of the vegetables or because the fruit falling is from their trees and they don’t want to see the branches break. Generally, when the Gleaners go out to do a pick, we glean the fruit and vegetables, clean up the area where we pick, and divide the food between donations (great condition), volunteers (pretty good condition) and livestock (kinda ugly). Usually, about 80% of the pick goes directly to those in need in Nevada County.
The Gold Country Gleaners have been active in Nevada County for five years and have run successfully with an all-volunteer model. We are thankful to everyone who helps out.