We recently discovered — in our Food Loss Study released in June — that Vermont may be losing 14.3 million pounds of wholesome produce on our farms each year. Wholesome food that is not picked (or is picked but not sold or donated) is considered “lost” food.
This loss is rarely the fault of farmers. It is quite often due to the way the marketplace believes food should look—its size, shape, and color. Read our study and you’ll see that there is still much to learn about when and why specific crops are lost on farms, how we can reduce the volume, and how this work can benefit farmers.
When we don’t eat food we let a lot of solar, fossil fuel, and human energy go to waste too. Reducing food loss retains investments made by farmers in the form of seeds, soil amendments, water, fuel, and labor.
Salvation Farms is at the forefront of a critical issue at a critical time. We’re engaging in regional conversations about managing available food and nutrients. We’ve recently been on panels at the New England Food Summit, UVM Food System Summit, Maine’s Start-up & Create Week, and Harvard’s Reduce & Recover Conference. The scale of food waste globally is incomprehensible and will only be overcome through conversation and collaboration centered on sustainable solutions.
Earlier in the year Salvation Farms was invited to travel to NYC with Vermont-gleaned produce to contribute to Feeding the 5000s, a campaign in cities worldwide using rescued food to create a communal, free feast to “shine a light on the global food waste scandal, champion the delicious solutions and catalyse the global movement against food waste” (feedback.org). Feedback is the UK-based organizer of this and other international campaigns to bring food waste into the public eye. Their founder Tristram Stuart and our founder Theresa Snow met, and Tristram shared the following impression:
“Salvation Farms has built a community around the exercise of food recovery on farms: providing a fun and active day out for hundreds of volunteers, feeding local people with quality food, working with farmers and using all of this as a platform to communicate more widely about the need for change at every level of the food system. These initiatives should give us hope that together we can reform the wasteful global food system.” – Tristram Stuart, Feedback
Indeed! We believe the act of food recovery engages individuals in their local food system, and with respect and professionalism imbued in the process provides a service to our farmers.
And yet – food rescue is also only the first step in food loss prevention.
Our food loss on farms study demonstrates the urgency for responsive systems to manage food loss in Vermont not only at the “micro” scale of community-based gleaning efforts but also at the “macro” scale: addressing what to do with larger quantities of food. Our findings reinforce Salvation Farms’ initiative to serve as an aggregator and crop surplus food hub manager.
Surplus currently rescued in Vermont represents only 5% of the potential.
If Vermont is going to adequately absorb and move crops into the food system, it will require advanced systems to ensure that the food being distributed is handled properly, quality-assessed, and distributed in a manner that sites can handle and that eaters want.
The need for advanced systems is our motivation for building a community-based aggregation facility. Building on lessons learned from six diverse pilots, including three years at the Southeast State Correction Facility and two at the Vermont Food Venture Center, the Vermont Commodity Program has refined a clearinghouse model to address the logistical challenge of moving surplus crops, establishing an aggregation facility in downtown Winooski (read 7/8/16 Burlington Free Press coverage on our program here). This well-equipped space will provide a central location to move hundreds of thousands of pounds of crops each year. It provides short-term storage, a workforce training space, and a large-scale kitchen which Salvation Farms is subleasing to Have Your Cake Catering, the catering arm of the Skinny Pancake.
We envision the Vermont Commodity Program building a skilled workforce to handle farm surplus crops. As such, we are developing a job skills program in tandem with the aggregation and processing work. Making sure the state is prepared to manage its surplus means developing a skilled workforce trained in the logistics of getting quality food to the places and people that need it most. By shifting to a location under our management, we will be able to conduct a consistent and reliable program while offering job training opportunities to wider populations, engaging both trainees and volunteers in the same space.
The revolving 16-week training program, launching in September, will engage individuals in need of transitional support into the workforce. Participants may include New Americans, ex-incarcerated, out-of-school youth, and veterans, among others. The program will provide hands-on experience working in a food hub, teaching participants about agricultural products, quality control standards, food safety, managing inventory, tracking shipments, and key elements of distribution. Each participant will receive trainings in food handling and safety, along with a rich curriculum complete with guest presenters. The program will provide trainees with industry-recognized skills and food management certifications that our state needs in order to manage its surplus and strengthen its food system… so that all edible food in Vermont reaches eaters.
In Vermont Gleaning Collective news…
The Collective’s website has a new look and is receiving enhancements daily. With the help of the Collective members, Vermont Design Works, and generous funders, Salvation Farms has dedicated 2016 to investing in upgrades to the multi-user website. To date we have overhauled functions that engage volunteers—specifically a homepage redesign—and built sign-up features for farmers who wish to donate food and recipient sites interested in receiving food.
We invite you to check out the new look: VermontGleaningCollective.org
And – while you’re there – don’t forget to register as a volunteer! Join the close to 800 Vermont Gleaning Collective volunteers who served our state’s farms in 2015. ‘Tis the gleaning season….now is the time to meet your local farmers—get to know your community—and move fresh, edible produce from farms to meals! Become a volunteer gleaner today.
The Vermont Gleaning Collective welcomed a new member recently. Fresh Start Community Farm, in Newport, has its sights set on gleaning Orleans County. Salvation Farm is excited to aid them in building a successful program.
Lamoille Valley Gleaning: Salvation Farms is returning to our gleaning roots—the Lamoille Valley—where we began building a model for community-based gleaning in 2004. We are excited to be re-establishing our regional gleaning program to serve Lamoille Valley farmers once again.
This season we will work with High Mowing Organic Seeds and other farms as needs arise all while working to build our capacity to run a fully fledged program in 2017.
We hope you’ll join us if you are in the Lamoille County area! In order to learn of dates and times, please register with the Vermont Gleaning Collective if you haven’t already: vermontgleaningcollective.org
We’ll close our summer update on a tasty note: We’re excited to announce that the Humble Harvester IPA is Back!
Rock Art Brewery has been a generous supporter of Salvation Farms for years, most notably with The Humble Harvester: a limited edition ale honoring Salvation Farms. Previously available in 22 oz. bottles, the brew is now available in cans across Vermont!
“We are so excited to partner with Salvation Farms again this year. I love telling people about the Humble Harvester IPA and whenever I have the opportunity to continue chatting with people in our tasting room tell them about the impressive work Salvation Farms is doing. I am so glad for the efforts I can make to help Salvation Farms. […] You boggled my mind yesterday when you told me 14 million pounds goes to waste and that before your study it was estimated to be a couple million. It really shows that the work you guys are doing is so worth it.” – Renee Nadeau
Visit Rock Art Brewery at their website or at:
632 Laporte Road/Rte. 100, Morrisville, VT