Gleaner-Farmer Relationships

A Study of Recruitment and Relationship Development


  • Sarah Lott University of Vermont
  • Emily Irwin Orleans County Natural Resources Conservation District
  • Sarah Heiss University of Vermont



Agriculture, Food Systems, Gleaning, Community Development, Food Insecurity, Communication, Food Waste, Onfarm Food Loss


Food loss and waste is a significant issue in the global food system. The agricultural practice of gleaning—recovery and distribution of unharvested produce directly from farms or the recovery of unsold produce from farmers markets—is seen as a multifunctional intervention, with the potential to address food loss, food insecurity, and the reliance of food pantries on processed food. While research has identified food donation and food recovery programs such as gleaning as potential solutions to issues of food loss and food insecurity, more research is needed to examine the actual communicative organizing practices associated with food recovery and gleaning efforts. With the aim of better conceptualizing the role that gleaning organizations might play in improving community food security and alleviating food loss, this study examines how gleaning programs develop and maintain relationships in emergency food systems. Based on 12 semistructured interviews with Vermont gleaning professionals, we aim (1) to describe the relationship between gleaning coordinators and farmers, with a focus on effective communication strategies for initiating and maintaining the relationship; and (2) to determine if participation in gleaning can add value to a farm enterprise. Results demonstrate the importance of farmers’ sense of community responsibility and gleaners’ individualized communication with farmers and knowledge of farming practices to the development and maintenance of gleaning relationships.

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Author Biographies

Sarah Lott, University of Vermont

Graduate Student, Food Systems Master’s Program

Emily Irwin, Orleans County Natural Resources Conservation District

Land Treatment Planner & Nutrient Management Specialist

Sarah Heiss, University of Vermont

Associate Professor, Department of Community Development and Applied Economics



How to Cite

Lott, S., Irwin, E., & Heiss, S. (2020). Gleaner-Farmer Relationships: A Study of Recruitment and Relationship Development. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 9(3), 125–138.