News / Economy

Social Media Helps Farmers Avoid Food Waste

A CropMobster gleaning, collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields to avoid food waste. (Photo by Gary Cedar)
A CropMobster gleaning, collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields to avoid food waste. (Photo by Gary Cedar)
One third of all food fails to make it from farm to table, according to the United Nations. But one farm in California has turned to social media to try to reduce wasted produce.

Bloomfield Farms general manager Nick Papadopoulos grew increasingly frustrated as he watched his employees repeatedly return from a weekend’s worth of farmer’s markets with unsold, top quality produce that would spoil before the next market day.

Workers would leave the extra produce in a barn where Papadopoulos would find boxes of leafy greens, herbs and carrots piled onto wooden pallets.

Social media experiment

So he came up with a plan to offer the food at a deep discount and he spread the word by updating the farm’s Facebook status on Sunday nights. The deals were open to anyone on the social media site. One week, the vegetables were snapped up by a group of homeowners in a neighboring community. Another week, a group of friends went in on it.

A crop gleaning event to harvest extra produce left in the field at Bloomfield Farms for hunger relief organizations. (Photo by Gary Cedar)A crop gleaning event to harvest extra produce left in the field at Bloomfield Farms for hunger relief organizations. (Photo by Gary Cedar)
Berry Smith Salinas, who lives nearby and owns a local gourmet food business, takes advantage of those sales by loading up on the leftover organic vegetables and herbs

“This morning I woke up to all these Facebook messages and people cross posting that there was a load of produce that hadn’t been picked up," she said.

As she tied the boxes down under a tarp, Salinas got a stream of messages from friends who were planning to gather at her commercial kitchen that night to claim their portions.

Food waste

This experiment in social media marketing began when Papadopoulos took a break from his job as a business consultant and went to work at his father-in-law’s farm. 

He was struck by the problem of wasted food when, on short notice and with limited time, he couldn’t find a place to donate 32 cases of organic broccoli. They ended up in the compost bin and chicken coop.

“I don’t believe we should let it go to waste," he said. "I believe we should share it, donate it, whatever it takes. And if possible, as farmers, we would like to recover a small portion of our costs.”

The latest farm census from the United States Department of Agriculture found that more than half of the small farms in California do not turn a profit. Encouraged by the success of his Facebook posts, Papadopoulos recruited a local Web team to create a site, cropmobster.com, where people involved with food production, hunger relief and those who want to buy local can access surplus produce.

Crop mobster

The website went online in March, and since then, non-profits, restaurants and individuals have salvaged more than 20,000 kilos of food.

A recent study found that, depending on weather and demand, up to 30 percent of fresh crops grown in the U.S. don’t make it to market. Crop mobster addresses one of the main problems with surplus produce.

“And that is that it’s often spontaneous, it’s inconsistent, and it’s hard for anyone to really build a business off this," said Dana Gunders, who researches food waste for the National Resources Defense Council. "So the way the technology can enable this more organic solution is really powerful.”

Apps and websites that connect large farms with food banks are also emerging. And a company based in San Francisco is working with a grocery chain to cheaply market perfectly good produce that doesn’t meet the size and quality standards for sale in a U.S. supermarket…say an apple that is 37, rather than 40 percent red.

But will these efforts work? Remember Berry Salinas who picked up the vegetables from Bloomfield Farms? A few days later, she was in her kitchen, sauteeing the very last carrots, potatoes and collards from the haul.

Salinas said within two days, the vegetables were either distributed to friends who had bought a portion, or donated to a local nonprofit.  She pointed to a bag of carrot peels and a few stalks from greens on her counter.

“The remains of two pallets of veggies reduced," she said, "to maybe two pounds."

Bloomfield Farms’ Nick Papadopoulos hopes this becomes commonplace. He says gleaning food from farms is a centuries old tradition, but it’s time to do it with 21st Century tools.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7866
JPY
USD
109.25
GBP
USD
0.6139
CAD
USD
1.1120
INR
USD
61.428

Rates may not be current.