Over the last 8 years, I have discovered a lot of ways to get things for free. My attitude is that you can find almost anything for free if your willing to look hard enough and long enough. There are people out there trying to give away exactly what you need, if you can just figure out where they are.
When I finally do find one of those people, I like to spread the word a little. You may be surprised to find out that it usually helps both sides. When I find something for free, it’s almost never a hush hush situation. If you had something to give away for free, wouldn’t you want the word to spread so that the people who are going to appreciate what your getting rid of, can find you?
Well in this situation, that’s exactly what is happening.
Let me teach you a new word …. maybe it’s not new to you, but it was new to me before I moved to our little patch of heaven in the middle of a tiny farming town. That word is GLEANING. It’s a verb, and around here, it means to go behind the pickers/harvesters in the big fields and orchards, and gather the produce that is left behind after harvest. You would be amazed to see the amount of food they can’t pick either because it’s not quite ripe, or it’s the wrong size for shipping, or a thousand other reasons. So once those big giant harvesters pull out of the field, there is often enough food left laying on the ground to feed a small army!
You might be wondering how this helps the farmers. Well I know a lot of farmers … I am married to one, I have several uncles that farm around here, and many many good friends that do. And every one that I have talked to feels the same way. They hate to see the left over produce that they worked so hard to grow, go to waste. Whatever they miss when they harvest their crop, just sits and rots, or gets churned under in preparation for the next crop.
Ya, I would have a hard time watching my hard work rot on the ground too!
Here is the deal though, there is proper protocol for this!
Let me repeat …. THERE IS PROPER PROTOCOL THAT MUST BE FOLLOWED!
Because, after all, we are talking about a farmer’s living here!
First let me tell you what NOT to do:
- Do not go into a field to glean without asking
- Do not call all your friends and show up with 50 people (unless you have permission)
- Do not damage trees, irrigation, trellis, etc.
- Do not act ungrateful or deserving
- Do not forget to say thank you …. more about that later
Alright now let me tell how to absolutely do it:
- Find some fields/orchards near you and pay attention to them. You need to do your own homework rather then calling the farmer asking what he is growing, where it’s at, and when it will be ready. He has enough going on already, and remember you are trying to help him out too? Not just get your own free produce. This will build a lasting relationship so the farmer WANTS you to come get his stuff. So find some fields/orchards growing something you want to eat. Here are some good examples of crops that leave plenty of produce behind:
2. Call the farmer and ask him if it would be okay for you to glean out of his field after they have harvested it. Throw in there what you plan on doing with it (bottled peaches, applesauce, dried pears) and tell him you want to make some extra and bring some to his family too. If you won’t be preserving it and only taking some for fresh eating, then leave this part out. You will still be taking him something as a thank you, it just won’t be the preserved produce.
3. Keep paying attention! It is your job to notice when they harvest the field or orchard. DO NOT call the farmer over and over asking if it’s ready yet, please I am begging you.
4. When they harvest the field, as long as you have asked the farmer, you can (and should) get in there as soon as possible. I have gone in while they are still harvesting. As long as you go to the part that has already been harvested, then you are just fine. If you wait more then a day or two, you will get lesser quality produce and you run the risk of them disking in the field before you get your gleaning done.
5. Alright here is the most important part! Are you listening?? MAKE SOMETHING TO TAKE TO THE FARMER AND HIS FAMILY AS A THANK YOU. It does not have to be big, but it does need to be something. Saying thank you, in person, is a dying art. Because of this, it means even more when you do it. Write a little thank you note, make something nice, and physically take it to the farmer. If you’re having a hard time coming up with something, here are some ideas:
- Dinner for his family
- Homemade bread and jam
- Whatever you preserved with his produce
- Cookies, brownies, dessert
- Have your kids write a thank you or draw a picture
- Anything else you make or spent time on
As long as you follow my steps and most importantly, say thank you! then you will have built a lasting relationship with this farmer and you can help each other out year after year. A great deal of my food storage is because some nice farmer allowed me to glean his produce. Just be sure to ask first, treat his property with respect, and take him something nice afterwards, and your all set!
If your in to getting things for free, check out my post on how to get free shade trees!
Or subscribe to the Real Farmhouse and find out how we save $2400 gardening and how much money each plant in my garden saves me each year!
Now here is a great big shout out to all those great men and women who work hard to grow fruits and veggies to feed the world! Thank you farmers!