Harvest Leader Manual

  Scouting: layout


Physical Layout of the Harvest

The overall layout of the harvest is done to make an efficient flow of volunteers and produce and is adapted to the requirements of the site. For small harvests the logistics and layout may be simple and obvious. For large ones it can require considerable planning to avoid bottlenecks at the harvest. For large harvests volunteers travel along this sequence:

  • Arrive: Where will Merced County Gleaning signs be placed so they will best direct volunteers to parking?
  • Park: see the discussion below.
  • Line up for check-in: Harvest check-in begins at the scheduled time, not before. Volunteers can be impatient, so a path using posts and ropes is helpful. On some sites, existing features such as trucks, buildings, hay bales and fences can play a part. It can seem like being overly regimented, but the purpose is getting everyone to the crop efficiently with an orderly flow from one station to the next.
  • Check in: How many assistants will be needed for check-in? This depends on both the number of volunteers and the number of harvest orientations that can be done at once. With harvests of 50 or smaller one person at check in is enough; for larger ones, two may be needed, one for each half of the alphabet.
  • Wait for an orientation group: A temporary holding area keeps volunteers from wandering to or past orientations that have already begun. Ropes and poles behind the check-in canopy work best. This prevents volunteers from accidentally skipping check-in.
  • Wash hands using running or poured water, soap and a dry cloth or paper towel. This step may also be after orientation depending on the circumstances of the harvest.
  • Listen to the harvest orientation: Plan for enough room for orientation, but also so that the area is well-defined and contained if possible. It is best if it is far enough from check-in that distractions are not a problem. Volunteers are often eager to get to the crop, but take all the time needed cover the necessary information.
  • Listen to ladder orientation: Volunteers want to grab ladders. It is best if the ladders are behind the ladder trainer. He or she is then a gate-keeper for access to the ladders. Ladder trainers will assemble the group, ask who has passed the online ladder safety test, hand out ladders to those that are on the list, and only then give the ladder safety orientation to the rest.
  • Go to the field and pick produce: The crop owner may want particular paths followed to and from the field. They may be bringing produce to the donation area or handing it over to the ATV driver.
  • Return to donation area: Plan enough room for donation boxes and the rush of first volunteers returning from the field.
Plan for movement through each of these steps so there is enough room and reasonable distances. It is nearly always best if check-in is between parking and the field. The donation area is best adjacent to check-in, but not so close that flow is confusing between volunteers entering and leaving the field.

The donation area also must be easily accessible for the food agency truck which may need more room than cars for turning and a firmer surface to support its weight.


Physical Layout of the Harvest

The overall layout of the harvest is done to make an efficient flow of volunteers and produce and is adapted to the requirements of the site. For small harvests the logistics and layout may be simple and obvious. For large ones it can require considerable planning to avoid at the harvest. For large harvests volunteers travel along this sequence:

  • Arrive: Where will Merced County Gleaning signs be placed so they will best direct volunteers to parking?
  • Park: see the discussion below.
  • Line up for check-in: Harvest check-in begins at the scheduled time, not before. Volunteers can be impatient, so a path using posts and ropes is helpful. On some sites, existing features such as trucks, buildings, hay bales and fences can play a part. It can seem like being overly regimented, but the purpose is getting everyone to the crop efficiently with an orderly flow from one station to the next.
  • Check in: How many assistants will be needed for check-in? This depends on both the number of volunteers and the number of harvest orientations that can be done at once. With harvests of or one person at check in is enough; for larger ones, two may be needed, one for each half of the alphabet.
  • Wait for an orientation group: A temporary holding area keeps volunteers from wandering to or past orientations that have already begun. Ropes and poles behind the check-in canopy work best. This prevents volunteers from accidentally skipping check-in.
  • Wash hands using running or poured water, soap and a dry cloth or paper towel. This step may also be after orientation depending on the circumstances of the harvest.
  • Listen to the harvest orientation: Plan for enough room for orientation, but also so that the area is well-defined and contained if possible. It is best if it is far enough from check-in that distractions are not a problem. Volunteers are often eager to get to the crop, .
  • Listen to ladder orientation: Volunteers want to grab ladders. It is best if the ladders are behind the ladder trainer. He or she is then a gate-keeper for access to the ladders. Ladder trainers will assemble the group, ask who has passed the online ladder safety test, hand out ladders to those that are on the list, and only then give the ladder safety orientation to the rest.
  • Go to the field and pick produce: The crop owner may want particular paths followed to and from the field. They may be bringing produce to the donation area or handing it over to the ATV driver.
  • Return to donation area: Plan enough room for donation boxes and the rush of first volunteers returning from the field.
Plan for movement through each of these steps so there is enough room and reasonable distances. It is nearly always best if check-in is between parking and the field. The donation area is best adjacent to check-in, but not so close that flow is confusing between volunteers entering and leaving the field.

The donation area also must be easily accessible for the food agency truck which may need more room than cars for turning and a firmer surface to support its weight.


At large harvests, the scheduled starting time:
Is enforced because the owner has been told when the harvest will start.
Is enforced to ensure that all preparations have been made.
Is optional for certified harvest leaders.
Planning the overall layout:
Smooths the flow of pickers through all steps.
Is nearly the same for all harvests.
Can be done at the time of the harvest.
Assistants doing check in:
Can each handle about 100 pickers.
Each take a portion of the roster if it is a very large harvest.
Can also help prepare the donation area.
Roped check-in lines:
May violate civil rights.
Help an orderly process.
Improve attendance.
Which order of picker flow works best?
Check in - ladder orientation - harvest orientation
Ladder sign out - check in - harvest orientation
Harvest orientation - ladder sign out - picking