If you’re a farmer, the reality of food waste and its impact on the environment is probably a shock. Half the land in the United States is used for farming, yet food is wasted due to storage issues, weather and pests, labor problems, and the fickle customer. Markets, restaurants and consumers want visually appealing fruits and vegetables that “match” in size, as this equates to quality in their minds. So, you toss up to half your crop for a variety of reasons. Considering you see only what’s wasted on your farm, the global impact is mind boggling.
You’re right to be concerned as the statistics are sobering. Up to ⅓ (!) of the world’s food is wasted on its journey to the consumer’s plate. To put that in perspective, that’s 2.8 trillion pounds, enough to feed 3 billion people. Shocking, isn’t it?
The waste in the United States is disheartening when you realize that at least 18 million people are not fed regularly. Plus, there’s the environmental impact of methane gas produced from food in dumps, not to mention the impact to your income statement. Making a living off farming is tough. Having to toss profits in the bin is budget busting.
The good news is that many countries, including the United States, recognize the enormity of the problem. As a farmer, consider joining an organization that helps the hungry while reducing food waste. The Food Recovery Network, Hungry Harvest and MealConnect are organizations that get unsold and “ugly” food into bellies instead of dumps. Another group turns surplus fruits and vegetables into air-dried fruit crisps. They purchase produce from small farms that might otherwise be discarded because it wasn’t sold or the farm didn’t have enough storage space.
The food waste problem won’t disappear overnight. You can do your part by ensuring nearly all your crops are sold or used, rather than enriching the compost pile.