Volunteers

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.

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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.

The Kindness of our Hearts

So far in 2015, the Gold Country Gleaners have donated over 10,000 pounds of food to Nevada County’s service organizations.

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We are a non-profit organization that collects donations of produce.  We are run entirely by volunteers who work for a little bit of the produce picked, but who work mostly for the good feelings that come with feeding the hungry.  We have no paid employees.  We have no budget.  None of our volunteers have an official title.  When we drive out to a farm, we pay for our own gas.  We will pick up from any farm regionally located near Nevada County.   We donate produce to nearly 20 service organizations in Nevada County who feed the hungry, homeless, and impoverished.

So far this year, we have donated over 5 tons of food to feed Nevada County.

The 2015 Season Has Started

Nevada County’s “Gleaning Season” is upon us. It’s hard to believe. Most gardeners in Nevada County don’t start planting veggies until Mother’s Day. Many people in the Sierra Foothills use Mother’s Day as the quintessential benchmark to signal that it’s time to plant their gardens. Many people in Western Nevada County live at elevations still fearing frost this time of year. This year is different.

The Gold Country Gleaners don’t usually start getting calls until the first stone fruit, usually cherries, start to ripen. This year, after an unreasonably warm winter, we have heard from several people who felt inspired to start planting before the usual time, and who now have more chard, kale, and broccoli than they know what to do with.

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Don’t worry. We are happy to take it. We can come pick it up.

The “Gold Country Gleaners” is an all-volunteer charity organization that pairs unused produce with people in need. We work with farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, and even local grocery stores to distribute excess produce to local non-profit organizations that serve the needy. We have an on-going relationship with Nevada County’s Food Bank, the Interfaith Food Ministry, Women of Worth, Spirit Peer Empowerment Center, Sierra Roots, Hospitality House, Divine Spark, the North San Juan Family Resource Center, the Salvation Army, and more.

Our large list of donor organizations use the produce in order to distribute food to hungry families or use the produce in prepared meals to feed clients or the hungry populations they serve. We work with professional farmers, amateur farmers, small gardeners, large orchards, homesteaders, backyard warriors, and anyone who might have an excess of produce at any particular time.

Last year, we donated over five tons of locally-grown produce to local non-profit organizations. Mountain Bounty Farm was a rock star donor and, by-far, our largest donor last year and the year before. (Thank you Mountain Bounty! Support Mountain Bounty here.) More than 98% of farm donations to the Gold Country Gleaners go to directly support our donor organizations. The other two percent of farm donations go to volunteers and to organizations that help support the Gold Country Gleaners.

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It’s not just farms that contribute. Many of our donations come from neighbors. Often donations come from someone who has a large fruit tree (or several trees) in their yard. We get a lot of calls for breaking branches. We are available to clean up a tree and make sure that the fruit gets distributed in an orderly fashion to several people in need. We also get a lot of calls for zucchini in the summer, which we are happy to take and find a home for.

If a gardener or homeowner needs help with a tree or garden, we are happy to help. We are happy to come out and pick. We offer the home-owner or donating business one third of the pick from the Gleaners free services. If you only need a few buckets of what you have produced, and you want to be able to donate the rest to worthy organizations, the Gold Country Gleaners can assist you by sending our volunteers to do the work for you.

Why do volunteers sign up with the Gleaners to fetch fruits and veggies? We keep our volunteers happy with fresh produce. Our volunteers sign up to pick because we allow them to keep a small fraction of the produce they pick. For people who love to put up jam, or freeze veggies, this organization creates a win-win situation.

The Gold Country Gleaners’ organization continues to serve Western Nevada County by pairing our local food resources with those in need of food. We distribute the local food that gets donated to local organizations that have systems in place, making sure that adequate distribution is received by all those in need.

If you would like to sign up to volunteer, or contact us to donate, please email us at goldcountrygleaners@gmail.com or call (530) 264-8680.