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

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7722
JPY
USD
107.08
GBP
USD
0.6171
CAD
USD
1.1041
INR
USD
61.075

Rates may not be current.