Food Waste

Avon Gleaning Network: Connecting surplus farm food with people who need it

By Samantha Williamson

The brilliant Bristol Gleaning Network recently updated its name to become the Avon Gleaning Network, reflecting expansion to Bath and areas outside of Bristol. Today’s blog is from Coordinator Samantha Williamson about her motivations for gleaning and her aim to get more children and young people involved. Samantha is looking to connect with more farms, volunteers and food projects, so get in touch if you would like to help.

My name is Samantha and I became involved with Avon Gleaning Network in May 2021 after reading an article about a project in Los Angeles, USA where fruit was rescued from trees in the city and redistributed to local citizens. I have been interested in permaculture and organic farming for many years, and through this have come to an understanding that we need to transform our food systems to make them more local, seasonal and less wasteful.

Harvested pumpkins

I felt compelled to do something to contribute to this global movement of people working towards food sovereignty but I wasn’t sure how to begin. I did some research online and discovered Avon Gleaning Network, who were operating as Bristol Gleaning Network at the time.

Volunteers harvesting pumpkins

I reached out to Nick Haigh, the founder of the network, who was very helpful and after initially thinking about setting up my own project, we decided to team up and join forces. Gleaning is an activity where volunteers harvest human edible produce from farms and redistribute them to those in need, to learn more about what Avon Gleaning Network do please see our previous Bite Back Better blog.

I joined a glean with Nick to see what it was all about and I felt so inspired afterwards. Everyone was really friendly and I could see that all the groups involved benefited in some way. The farmers are happy for us to redistribute their surplus to people in need (we also try to help them out as much as we can, weeding as we harvest or helping out with other farm jobs), the volunteers love to spend time outside on the land meeting like-minded people, and the food projects we support are very grateful for the donations of fresh produce. It feels like a win-win situation. Of course it would be good to live in a world where food waste doesn’t exist, but at the moment it does and Avon Gleaning Network can help to connect surplus food with people who need it.

Harvesting salad leaves

Nick began running the gleaning network in September 2020 and since then our team of volunteers have saved more than eight tonnes of food from going to waste. Relationships have been built with a number of farms in the Bristol area and in 2021 alone we rescued 6.4 tonnes of food, with the help of our amazing volunteers who donated over 700 hours of their time. This was donated to 28 different local food projects including community cafés, food clubs and charities. 

Once I got on board as a coordinator I began reaching out to farms and food projects in my local area to organise more gleans. I live just outside of Bath so I began to develop contacts closer to where I live and at the end of last year Nick and I decided to update our name to reflect our expansion to Bath and areas outside of Bristol. We chose Avon Gleaning Network as it is based on a natural feature of the landscape, the River Avon, which runs through both Bath and Bristol.

Harvesting beans with Avon Gleaning Network

One of my favourite things about gleaning is getting my now 22-month-old daughter involved. She loves being outdoors on the farms and I think it’s really important that she learns where food comes from, how it grows and what to do with it. One of my intentions for 2022 with Avon Gleaning Network is to enable more children and young people to get involved as they are the future stewards of the land and a close connection with nature lays a good foundation for a better and more just world.

Avon Gleaning Network has been growing organically and is always looking to connect with more farms, volunteers and food projects, so if you live in and around Bristol or Bath and would like to learn more please follow us on social media and sign up to our volunteer call out list. We would love to see you out in the fields!

Did you know that 20,000 tonnes of food waste is thrown into Bristol’s black bins every year? Find out why it’s so important to reduce the amount of food we waste and check out Bristol Bites Back Better resources and activities designed to fight food waste in the city.

By setting the wheels in motion now, together we can transform the future of food in our city, building in resilience over the next decade. So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

Join the conversation

So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

* Required field

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Our Sponsors