In the first empirical study of food loss on Vermont farms, Salvation Farms and Isgood Community Research estimate that 14.3 million pounds of wholesome vegetables and berries grown in the state go uneaten every year. Salvation Farms began the study last year in order to understand the scope of food loss – defined as edible, quality crops that are neither sold nor donated. The Morrisville-based nonprofit has worked with farmers for more than a decade to capture and distribute un-marketed crops.
Working with Elana Dean of Isgood Community Research, the organization designed a survey with farmer input and administered it to growers across the state earlier this spring. Farmers provided their own estimates on crop loss at two points: in the field and after harvest. The analysis combined their estimates with US Census land-use data and UVM and Rutgers University per-acreage yields for similar-type farms to calculate loss on a state-wide level.
With all the variables involved in farming, surplus is considered somewhat inevitable. In the survey, farmers cited top reasons they left crops in the field: blemishes on the crops and lack of confidence in being able to sell a particular item – and top reasons they could not sell all of their harvest once picked: a lack of demand and oversaturation of markets in a particular item.
Salvation Farms’ research is among the first in the nation. Two other studies exist, both affiliated with the Natural Resources Defense Council, one similar to the Vermont study using data from central California farmers and a second using data from Minnesota farmers in an effort to explore market expansion for “cosmetically imperfect” produce.
Vern Grubinger, Vegetable and Berry Specialist at the University of Vermont, helped review the study and vet the per-acreage yield numbers used in the final calculations. Representatives from the University of Vermont’s Community Development and Applied Economics Department, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and Deloitte Consulting also reviewed and provided expert feedback on parts of the report.
Laurie Beyranevand, Associate Director of the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems and a Salvation Farms’ Board Member says “Salvation Farms’ study provides a first of its kind analysis of food loss at the state level based on original research. This important and necessary work can serve as a model for other states seeking to reduce farm surplus and enables the State of Vermont to better assess and consider how it might support diversion of these products.”
To read Salvation Farms’ food loss on Vermont farms study visit www.SalvationFarms.org.