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

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8916
JPY
USD
121.32
GBP
USD
0.6487
CAD
USD
1.3252
INR
USD
66.401

Rates may not be current.