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?
Farmbrite releases a Free version of their software
Contact: Janine Russell President & Co-Founder
Company email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Longmont, CO, 9/4/2018- The makers of Farmbrite are now offering a free version of their software. This version comes with many of the high level offerings that their full version of the software provides but without the cost. Farmbrite provides farm management and record keeping software for all sized farms.
“We’re offering the free version so that the software can be available to new farmers or farms that might not otherwise be able to afford the software.” Ian Russell, Founder & CTO
The free version will provide users with the ability to gain insight into their farms’ overall activities and better understand how to make their farm more efficient and profitable.
All these features are available immediately. The company hopes that this change will help new farmers or others that cannot afford the expense be able to afford their software and be more successful. You can find out more on their website. http://www.farmbrite.com/pricing/
Farming is noble, honorable and very hard work but there's a lot to think about before you start digging in the soil or buying livestock. Let's look and see if this profession is for you.
1.) Find a mentor
Find a farmer you respect and one that farms the way you want to farm. Get a job with them. Learn all you can. Be reliable, show up and give all you can, be loyal to them for helping you and teaching you what they know. There are going to be jobs you don't want to do, but do them anyway. This is starting from the bottom and learning as you go. Learn from both his knowledge and his mistakes. If you start early you get about 30 or so seasons to succeed at farming. That seems like a lot but that is a whole year that I'm talking about. Learn early and maybe even find a better/smarter way.
2.) Have a plan
First of all you need to have a map on a high level to understand what you want to do and what you want to sell. Then you can go in and reverse engineer who you need to talk to, what you need to acquire, what steps you need to take to get there and what you need to achieve you goals.
Spend your money wisely. Try to find deals on the things you need. Maybe use Craigslist, maybe your mentor has a friend selling something you need. Try to buy things that are of the highest quality but are on sale.
A word of advice: If you can at all swing it, don't start out owing money. This puts you at an extreme disadvantage and you will start out coming from a place of want instead of being smart and steady. Make good business choices from the start and run this as a business.
3.) Know the economics of Farming - Turning a new page
In the past farmers have used a very capitalistic view of resources. Air, water, and soil have been plentiful and so used to a capitalistic benefit of the farmer. As those resources are becoming more scarce farming will become harder. As new farmers you need to be aware of what has been done in the past and what is no longer working. Maximizing profits and industrializing farming has been detrimental to the farmers way of life. They may have maximized profit but there was a cost to the land. You can learn and change and be a better farmer and steward of the land. Do this by diversifying your farm. The industrialized farmer has one crop that they sell. This seems like a good idea to specialize but to use a farming expression, you're putting all your eggs in one basket. It can be detrimental if there is a dip in sale prices, in foreign trade talks or politics and the like. Smart business people diversify and scale. Find what works, do it as quickly as you can and do keep doing more of that same thing.
3.) Farmers wanted
As a farmer you need to be quick to learn new things, be right on top of what is working in your business and what is not. It can't be said enough, this is a small business and you need to treat is as such. Don't fall into the traps that others have fallen into. As a farmer you are an artist, plumber, electrician, landscaper, entrepreneur, grower, inventor, salesperson and whatever else needs to be done. Get your hands dirty, don't throw away anything (as soon as you do you'll need it again), repair things that are old instead of getting a new one.
What are you going to sell? This is where you get to be creative and put the "you" into your farm. It's important that you know the why behind your product so that you can tell that story to your customers. This is what will keep them loyal, that and customer service. Get the word out about your farm and products through all the social sites and web commerce that is available to you. Just because you're a farmer doesn't mean you need to do away with technology. Let technology work for you. Tell your story, get your story out the the world through all the social channels and then you can go on being a farmer.
Be the expert on this product. You need to know everything there is about this market. Knowing what you're up against will help you before you have a problem.
Where are you going to raise your product?
This can be unconventional. You can rent land, or find a warehouse, it could be on top of a building in the city, it can be aquaponics, livestock, row crops, bees and so many other things. This goes back to # 3 on this list. Think outside of the box. This is what is going to make you stand out and it will end up being your brand.
Finding your niche. Who are you going to sell to? CSA, local community, other things to sell, staying on top of the market. You are going to need to really know your market and what they want to buy so you can succeed.
7.) Getting help
You need some know-how before you jump into this. The USDA is going to be a great resource for new farmers. As I said before having the mentor will help you so much. There are places out there that can help. Seek them out and find what you need to succeed.
Keep costs in line with your revenue. This can't be stressed enough.
I'm not going to sugar coat this. Most new businesses fail in the first 2 years. Be smart about this process. Do everything as a business and take the emotion out of it. If you want to drive a tractor around a field but can't afford it, buying that tractor might be the end of your dream as a farmer. Don't let pride get the best of you.
Here are some other resources to help you get your start. Best of luck!
Keys to succeeding on the farm
Top 10 reasons new business fail
Keeping chickens and other poultry can be a wonderful way to supply yourself with fresh chicken and the best tasting eggs but you'll find but they can also be a great source of revenue. Here are a few ways to turn a profit with poultry.
First up on our list is raising meat birds. Things to think about are where are you going to keep them, how long do you need to keep them before they're ready and when/how are you going to process them. All of these steps need to be thought out a head of time to make sure that you are going to find profit in this venture.
Selling eggs for eating
This is an easy one. Most people I know eat eggs for breakfast and fresh eggs from a flock of chickens with a good diet are some of the best tasting eggs you can find. This is kind of a numbers game with the amount of chickens you need (1 egg per chicken per day). It goes without saying that your stock will need to be good layers-Red Star or Leghorns are good bet. Also, you will also need to keep your light at 14 hours during the winter months to keep the eggs coming and keeping your flock healthy and in good living conditions are important to your investment as well as the animal's welfare.
Selling eggs for breeding
Selling eggs for breeding can make you top dollar. When selling eggs for breading you are going to want to have a flock (or 3) that are hard to find poultry types. You could also choose a breed that are hard to get a hold of in your area. Pick your stock from a breeder with a good reputation. You can either sell the fertilized eggs or the hatched chicks. Expect some that won't hatch though. Keep about 12 hens and 1 rooster in each flock. You can sell these eggs locally or ship them out. I've even seen eggs on Ebay and craigslist.
Pullets and Layers
You can also raise the chicks for a bit of time and sell them either right before they're laying or when they are laying. Some people don't want to mess with raising chicks. You can sell these chickens at a premium because you have invested the time in raising them for them.
Other types of poultry to think about adding
Specialty chicken breeds, Ducks, Turkeys, Quail, Guinea foul, peacocks
Let me take a minute to add that not only do you need to raise the product but you have to put your business hat on and sell the product. Be prepared before you spend one dollar on this venture to get the word out, to be prepared and professional when people call you about your product (call them back) and very importantly work on your marketing.