In 2016, a ReFED report estimated that in the US, some 10.1 million tons of food remains unharvested at farms. That is almost 1/5 of the annual total food waste generated in the country. Those are profits you aren't making.
How do you eliminate food loss on your farm? Here are 9 ways to stop food loss and turn that into a profit.
1.) Repackage the product:
If you can't sell them, preserve them. It makes sense to take the fruit and vegetables that you have and make something with the excess; jam, jelly, salsa. You just need a little bit of elbow grease and time. Save the season and sell the products through the winter.
2.) Offer to deliver:
Deliver the unsold items to people who want them. Have a sign up on your website or have a list of customers that like specific items. Make this a VIP option! You are delivering it to their doorstep. If you have the produce already packaged up and ready to sell, why not spend some extra time and not let if go to waste.
3.) Host a farm to table dinner:
Have a farm dinner directly after your day at the market. Whatever doesn't sell, gets cooked up for dinner.
4.) Sell it online:
We've talkde about using your website to sell your products online but there are other ways as well. Companies like Full Harvest and Local Harvest are helping in this challenge. They have created a marketplace to take your unsold items and sell them online. Not a bad place to start. I'm not saying they are free market places, but they may give you options to sell to a large market.
5.) Work with local markets and restaurants:
Go to the local stores around you and ask if they would sell your items. Sometimes this can take some phone calls to get to the right person. It doesn't hurt to ask if they'll sell your items. The worst they will say is no, (probably).
6.) Sell ugly fruit, eggs and vegetables:
It doesn't have to be pretty to be delicious. Market this to your customers and give them a discount. You're still making a profit and they are getting the produce they want. Win, win!
7.) Sell expired or over-ripe items:
Hear me out here. The stores are selling expired items, maybe you can too. Bread that is hard can be used to make french toast, peaches that are overripe will make a delicious pie. If you're honest and upfront about the items being on the discount rack and your can still sell them.
8.) Animals like food too:
Sell the produce to another farmer who will use the produce to feed to their animals.
9.) Donate the items to charity:
There are many people that can't afford the produce you're throwing away, so be charitable. Rescue your food with a company like Hungry Harvest or your local food bank.
It takes all season to work the soil, plant the seeds, water and care for and harvest the produce you sell. As it turns out you don't have to throw it away, compost it or till it in. There are plenty of other options to try. As it turns out food waste can be reduced in our own fields.
Cricket granola, cricket ice cream, silkworm chips, meal worm burgers these are things that we never thought we would be eating let alone thinking of these things being gourmet and highly sought after items. Humans have been using insects for protein for a very long time. It may have been a matter of survival before but maybe it still is, but as we look for more sustainable sources of protein insects are getting high marks. It turns out farming insects is a lucrative business model as well. For any sized farm this might be a great investment to look into.
But, it's a bug. To that I say...
The chef makes the meal
One person will turn up their nose to what you find to be your favorite meal. The perfectly cooked steak could be deemed by some to be disgusting and so it really depends on who is cooking the meal and who is eating the food. Or possibly it all comes down to marketing.
Grasshoppers, termites, hornets, ants, crickets, weevil grubs, meal worms, all of these are prized in other countries for their taste. Ants are small but powerful and are actually among the highest sources of protein in the world. One type of leaf cutter ant from South America has been described as having a bacon like taste. I think we are only limited by our imaginations in coming up with delicious ways to make insects more palatable and delicious.
We already package up meal worms for our chickens but what about our other omnivorous livestock? Pigs and fish; here is an article from Agweb that talks about innovative farming opportunities.
Still can't get over the fact that it's a bug?
Bugs are nutritious and delicious too.
There is a cookbook, "On Eating Insects" by Josh Evans that describes the taste of Danish forest ants like this, "Like lemon rinds seared on the grill, with a hint of brown sugar." I don't know about you, but to me that sounds delicious and something I'd like to try.
It's estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States that 2 billion people eat bugs. That's not a bad percentage of people to market to. Athletes, health enthusiast and environmentally conscious individuals are always looking for environmentally friendly sources of lean protein, essential amino acids, and omega 3 fatty acids. For some people the thing they can't get around is that it's an insect. Maybe they should be marketed more like shrimp, clams, or other crustaceans; the insects under the sea. Just reverse it and call them, the lobsters of the land.
Bottom line; they're profitable
It takes way less to raise these little guys. In north America it's also considered a gourmet item and is imported from other countries that have been perfecting their insect recipes for hundreds of years. In Seattle at Safeco field they serve crunchy Chapulines otherwise known as Grasshoppers.
According to the research firm Global Market Insights, The American market for edible insects exceeded $55 million in 2017 and is projected to increase more than 43 percent by 2024.
Using less and getting more
Insects need 6 times less feed than cattle, 4 times less than sheep, and 2 times less than pigs to produce the same amount of protein. They also need less space and produce less waste. For that reason you can get into this business with very little overhead.
They're not going away. Bugs have been on the plant for 400 million years (way before us), represent 80% of the species on the plant, and out number us, by...a lot. There are 2,100 known types of edible insects, it might be time to look into this as a viable business model for your farm.
Here's one farm that's leading the way into this market but there is plenty of room for others there as well. Any takers?