How to Eliminate Food Waste at Harvest
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. Not to oversimplify things but those are profits you aren't making.
Did you know 1 in 8 People in the US are food insecure. Yet more than 30% of food grown is wasted and never consumed. Here are a few ideas to reduce waste on your farm, add some additional revenue and best of all help feed people in need.
Avoid planting too much
Reduce harvest waste
Reduce waste during storage
Sponsor a family CSA share
Use / sell extra for livestock feed
Secure buyers ahead of time
Sell / donate to food banks
Discount for imperfect foods
How do you eliminate food waste?
Here are some ideas to stop food loss and turn that into a profit.
1. Upcycle your farm and garden harvests
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. Deliver local farm fresh produce
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. You can also have baskets of produce to purchase on their way home.
4. Sell produce online
We've talked about using your website to sell your products online but there are other ways as well. Companies like ours (Farmbrite), LocalLine, Barn2Door, 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. Sell to local groceries, 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 vegetables and fruits
I know, I know, but just 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. Feeding animals farm waste
Use the produce for your animals or sell the produce to another farmer who will use the produce to feed to their animals.
9. Donate food waste 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.
Bonus: Last, but certainly not least, compost. Compost is an excellent source of additional organic matter and nutrients to incorporate into your soil. The food you can't use you can compost. Food waste is a large contributor to methane gas emissions, 14.2% according to a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection agency. Much of this could be reduced by finding alternative channels and sequestering the carbon. Learn how to compost.
It takes a full growing season to work the soil, plant the seeds, water and care for and harvest the produce you sell. You don't have to throw any of 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 starting in our own fields.
Here are some additional articles about Food Waste Reduction: