In many parts of Idaho farmers allow people to come into their fields after harvest and glean potatoes from the field. The potatoes are great for eating and are sometimes collected in large numbers and donated to food banks, the elderly, or those in need. Gleaned potatoes are generally fit for human consumption if gleaned before a hard frost.
While gleaning is typically done right after a potato field is harvested, gleaners should obtain permission from the landowner before entering onto the landowner’s property to collect potatoes. (Gleaners have no right to enter onto private property without permission.)
Idaho law protects farmers and ranchers who donate perishable or nonperishable food to a charitable or nonprofit organization for free distribution, or who donate perishable food to a gleaner. When farmers and ranchers make these donations they are exempt from criminal or civil damages arising from the condition of the food. Idaho Code § 6-1301. A farmer need not worry that a gleaner will get sick from a “bad” potato and then be sued by the gleaner. The only exceptions are injuries caused by gross negligence, recklessness or intentional misconduct of the donor.
The law also protects grocery stores and food chains that donate perishable or nonperishable food that is not readily marketable due to appearance, freshness, grade, surplus or other considerations. The law allows food that is still good, but may be past the “freshness” date to be donated to food banks without worry that that the donor will be sued because of the condition of the food.
Idaho produces many foods for human consumption, including wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, onions and beef. Any of these products may be donated to food banks, charitable organizations, or gleaners knowing that the farmer or rancher is protected by the law.