Skip to main content

Gleaning: Volunteering like a Hipster


Art Credit: Christopher Paquette

The hipster movement is catching. Make your own clothes, wear recycled glasses, grow your own food, snub coffee chains etc. Resourcefulness is the trademark of any good hipster. Now you can volunteer like a hipster, by heading to the farm. It’s a new way to help fight hunger called gleaning.

Gleaning is the act of collecting the perfectly healthy food that a farmer has left behind after the harvest. According to the Society of St. Andrew, the biggest gleaning group in the country, 48 million people in the United States don't have enough food to eat. Due to time constraints and inefficient equipment or resources, 96 billion pounds of food is left unharvested in the fields each year, according to an NPR story by Blake Farmer. Gleaning is an attempt to resolve these two problems; all it takes is some hipster man hours.

How can you do this? After starting a Gleaning Club in college, I learned the ropes. Here’s how you too can help fight hunger like a hipster.

You can start by reaching out to the Society of St. Andrew, most states have a local office and can give you information about when and where their next gleanings will be. You can visit their website to contact their local offices and see what's available. Usually they take place on Saturday mornings, starting around 8:00 a.m. The type of crop you glean depends on the harvest season. The day typically starts in a cornfield at the crack of dawn, before it gets too hot. The staff whom you coordinated with gives the you a few guidelines on which crop is good to pick, supplies boxes for gathering, and you’re off!

Gleaning is a work out, but its worth it. By the time I finished my first gleaning trip, we had picked about 6,000 pounds of corn. which, according to the Society of St. Andrews, was enough to feed 18,000 people.

If that’s not a hipster way to spend a Saturday morning, I don’t know what is.

(Photo by Christopher Paquette)