Monday, 2 December 2013


Once again La Nouvelle République has produced a fascinating back-page article, this time in response to Marcel B. of Glenouze, Vienne. He writes,
"At the edge of our communal road there are some walnut trees, whose nuts fall onto the road and are crushed by vehicles. I am authorised by the mayor to collect them, even from the communal roads. But, normally, who do the nuts belong to? And gleaning of wheat, sunflowers, maize - is it allowed?".
Gerroffa moi nuts! Walnut trees by the D103, Le Grand Pressigny

Gleaning (le glanage) - the practice of collecting fallen grain and other crops after harvest - is at least as old as the Bible story of Ruth, and probably goes back to the first cultivation of cereals, fruits and vegetables in the Neolithic period. When you don't have enough to eat, every grain counts.

Christophe Boutin's article of 29th November begins:
In these anti-waste times, gleaning and salvaging are beneficial, not to mention ecologically sound. On condition that rights are respected, and these can differ from one commune to another.

He continues...
Gleaning is an ancestral right which has gone through a number of changes (see Case Law, below). The civil code (Article 520) is drawn up on the principle that "harvests of standing crops are biens immeubles (fixtures) and fallen crops and leavings are biens meubles (movable property, furnishings)". [The distinction between biens immeubles and biens meubles is fundamental to French property law, not least when it comes to inheritance.] However a meuble on a private property belongs a priori to the proprietor. Nothing entitles you to help yourself to it or to enter the property when it has fallen to the ground. By contrast, apples from your neighbour's tree that have fallen onto your land belong to you. But only if they are windfalls. If they fall in the street, picking them up in a public place is not an issue.
Jerry gleaning for windfall apples. There's one behind you...
In fact the law of 9 July 1888 (Article 19) gives the right to municipal authorities to forbid gleaning. If there is no such bye-law, then it is allowed, during the hours of daylight ("in sight of everyone"), on a piece of land that is cultivated but not walled off, that has already been harvested. Gleaning must be done by hand (without tools, and in limited quantities). One particular local code stands out: in Franche-Comté, fruits, vegetables, cereals and other crops are considered to have been abandoned by their proprietor if they have not been harvested by 1st November. Any remaining fruits and crops then belong to whoever collects them.
By day and without tools, gleaning is widely tolerated in France. It is distinct from three other practices: "maraudage", "grapillage" and "râtelage". The first refers to helping yourself to cultivated fruit and vegetables when they are still in the ground. The second is picking, after the harvest, what remains on fruit trees or vines, which could form a second harvest. The third uses tools such as rakes (râteaux) for "harvesting".
Gleaning on the French coasts concerns items thrown up by the sea, seaweed and driftwood. Often polluted, unfit for consumption or impregnated with salt, these "gleanings" would require precautions and restricted use. As with sea angling, this harvest is strictly regulated and limited to specified zones. Respect for local practices and the environment implies taking local advice.

Not that the modern harvest leaves much grain to glean (except on the road)

En savoir plus...

Ancestral: the right to glean is based on a royal edict of 2nd November 1554 "the right to glean is authorised to the poor, the unfortunate, the underprivileged, the elderly, the disabled and little children. On another's land, it can only be undertaken after the harvest has been removed, and by hand, without the use of any tool".

not much here...

Case law: "Gleaning is closely linked to local customs and is only allowed within that framework" (verdict of the Court of Appeal of Montpellier, 21st June 2007). "The collection of unharvested potatoes from cultivated fields constitutes gleaning" (verdict of the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence, 20th November 1991).

Too late now...

Reading: see "Les Glaneurs et La Glaneuse" (1999) by Agnès Varda. "Gleaners both male and female, salvagers, skip-divers and freegans, whether by necessity, by chance or by choice, are all in contact with the leavings of others. Potatoes, apples and other foods thrown away, ownerless objects and clocks with no hands, that's the gleaning of our times".

Just remember:
  • Every year in the UK 18 million tonnes of food end up in landfill.  (Food AWARE)
  • Figures from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers show as much as 2bn tonnes of food never makes it on to a plate. (The Guardian, 10 Jan 2013)
  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly 870 million people of the 7.1 billion people in the world, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. (World Hunger) 


Susan said...

Very interesting to have it spelled out.

Tim said...

I thought the whole article was fascinating - esoecially the link to freeganism. P

Colin and Elizabeth said...

This is a really interesting post and addresses an issue we have wrestled with. As we understand it, then, we could legally have gone into the field next to us and 'gleaned' a couple of the sunflower heads left unharvested until the last week in November, and saved them for the birds in the winter month?

Tim said...

C+E - you could only glean standing sunflower heads where there has been no harvest if you live in Franche-Comté. Otherwise it's maraudage. If there are some heads lying on the ground after the harvest, you can have those. If there are heads still standing after the harvest (there usually are) ask the farmer if you can have a couple - he won't bother with them now. Otherwise they're for the birds.

GaynorB said...

Interesting and certainly thought provoking re. the quantities of waste and unused food.