Skip to Content

How to Get FREE Food That’s Healthy! By Gleaning The Fields

My Homestead Life may earn a commission for purchases made after clicking links on this page. Learn More see Privacy Policy.

Gleaning simply means going through the fields and picking anything the farmer left behind after the harvest. I’m here to share how you can get FREE, Healthy fresh produce by gleaning the fields.

Desperation Is The Mother of Invention

How to Get FREE Food that's Healthy!

Sometimes desperation is the mother of invention. When you are on a tight budget, or are facing hunger, you look outside of the box.
That is exactly what my friend Leia did when she needed food and found out about gleaning the fields.
Gleaning the fields not only provides free food, but it’s healthy! 

“I’d had a stroke, actually 2, and I lost my job. We only had one income, it was a very difficult time.”

How to Get FREE Food That’s Healthy! By Gleaning The Fields

 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 23:22

What is Gleaning and How Can You Get Free Food?

Gleaning simply means going through the fields and picking anything the farmer left behind after the harvest.

The Old Testament talks about gleaning, instructing farmers to not take every food from their land but to leave some in the fields for the poor and the travelers.

Local Farmers look every year for those willing to glean their fields but many never find anyone willing to do so.

They don’t want to see their harvest go to waste but have little time to glean themselves and often have other duties that require their attention.

How Can You Start Getting Free Healthy Food?

I got into gleaning when a friend told me about the local group here. I’d had a stroke, actually 2, and I lost my job.

We only had one income, it was a very difficult time. I had an amazing support system, and the idea that it all was free, I was in shock!

The amount of food varies each glean, each farm… Sometimes we go and pick a 5 gallon bucket for the farmer, a 5 gallon bucket for us, and we all share.

That’s usually when something needs harvested asap, before a frost or something like that, and it helps everyone for us to come in.

We have a deal with a local orchard and we get bushels of apples for $7/bushel each fall

Every Saturday during green bean season we get several totes of green beans, (several thousand pounds) given to us from a local “bean shed” They call them seconds, but they’re in great condition.

An abundance. We post it publicly where and when we will be giving them out, this is a public event that’s not limited to members only.

Free Food Isn’t Just For The Poor

Too many times in my life people look down on those that need food. Or they think because it’s free, it’s bad or something’s wrong with it and that’s simply not the case.

Gleaning the fields helps the farmer, is reducing waste, saving money and not to mention it’s providing your family with healthy food.

I save a lot of money each year.

I typically can enough tomatoes for all of my sauces, salsas, etc. for an entire year. Enough peppers of each variety for a year.

I’m still eating pumpkin I cooked and froze last year, plus I got more this year. Last year we had an abundance of butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash, so much that I was giving it away to absolutely everyone I met.

I still had enough to last us for months. This year the squash crop wasn’t that good, it was a very wet year. Cabbage, enough to store for soups, plus making kraut.

Our group is all about “A hand up, not a handout”

Gleaning Groups

To glean with a group (most groups do this) you must be a member. Our members pay $20/year/family and volunteer 10 hours per year, which is easy to do. We are a 501c3 non-profit organization.

We hold yard sales, bake sales, etc. to keep funding for fuel, any supplies needed for the group such a field scales, etc. for the truck and trailer used for delivery to food banks, etc.

How A Gleaning Group Works For FREE Food

We simply call Farms, go visit them, tell them what we do. We’ve been known to stop anywhere we see fruit trees loaded with fruit to see if our group can pick.

We always come together with baked goods, jams and jellies, etc. at the end of the season and deliver baskets to the farmers.

We hold classes, canning, cheese making, cider press, bread making, knitting, sewing, sausage making…anything that is “getting back to the basics”

There are a few rules.

  • Nothing can be sold that we glean.
  • We only move in groups in the fields.
  • No one goes to the farms alone and tries to glean without the group being scheduled to be there.
  • We don’t want the farmers harassed.

Everything gets weighed, so the farmer can turn it in to the USDA and get credit for his taxes. 

Paying It Forward- Offering Free Food To Others

The group has each Gleaner give 10% of what they pick (weight) to donate to missions, disabled, shut-ins, food banks, etc.

So, at first, they were delivering to me, because I couldn’t drive, and couldn’t be in the fields picking.

Once I was strong enough to get out in the fields and help, members would pick me up and take me with them. It was so wonderful!

How To Make FREE Food Last For Years

I saved seeds from every variety of vegetable that I glean. Cushaw squash is one that’s a favorite of mine.
In addition to having FREE, healthy, fresh food, you can save the seeds to plant in your own garden and enjoy free food for years to come. 

To learn more about seed-saving, click here for instructions. 

Find a Gleaning Group Near You

I found this gleaning Group on Facebook. There wasn’t one here until our founder moved here from Washington where it’s huge.

If you would like to find a gleaning group near you, you can search ‘gleaning groups’ on Facebook or you can find a local gleaning chapter online. 

If You Need Free Food Because of a Life Crisis- You’re not alone

We are here to help our brothers and sisters, we are a community.
If you have found yourself in a situation where you’re struggling or need help, read our article “How to Be Poor- What To Do When You Lose Everything. 

A special thanks to my friend Leia for sharing her story with us and inspiring us to glean the fields!

If you would like to join Leia and other like-minded homesteaders, we invite you to be a part of our Facebook Group called Old Paths To New Homesteading and Self-Reliant Living

How to Get FREE Food That's Healthy!

Sharing is caring!


Thursday 26th of August 2021

I think this is a great idea but where do I go to sign up my kids to do this. I would do it but I am a 100% NSC Disabled Veteran and I cannot walk and my husband is a 30% SC Disabled Veteran. I know my children would be able to pick on weekends if I asked them.

Amber Bradshaw

Saturday 28th of August 2021

You can contact the local farms, many are looking for pickers depending on their age. I know our local gleaners group allows older children to go on the gleans as well.

12 Places to Get Cheap or Free Garden Plants & Seeds - My Homestead Life

Monday 21st of May 2018

[…] on how to get cheap or free garden plants and seeds, but what if you can’t grow a garden? In this article, How To Get FREE Food That’s Healthy! By Gleaning The Fields, I reveal the secret to getting FREE […]


Monday 27th of November 2017

I think it's a fantastic idea. I haven't heard of it in the UK, but when I was younger, I used go on the fruit picking season. This was on in the 1960's (I was about 9 or 10) and we got tokens which were cashed in at the end of the day! When I got home I gave some of the money to my mum, which came in very handy as food in Britain was very expensive at that time. It was nice because a lot of the neighbours (I went with one) all helped each other with the kids and there was a lot of love for all.

How To Be Poor- What To Do When You Lose Everything - My Homestead Life

Tuesday 21st of November 2017

[…] How to Get FREE Food That’s Healthy! By Gleaning The Fields […]