14.3 Million Pounds of Produce Going to Waste on VT Farms, Local Groups Looking to Change That

Some Vermont Farms Taking Advantage of Gleaning to Utilize 100% of Crops

Burlington, Vt. - A new study shows millions of pounds of food are going unused in Vermont each year.  But local organizations are working to change that.  

Salvation Farms is the group behind the study.  Their last estimate of pounds of produce going to waste off of Vermont farms was 2 million.  It's now 14.3 million pounds thanks to more accurate data.  It's a number they hope to reduce.

Theresa Snow says too many berries and vegetables from Vermont farms, are going to waste.  "This is more than 7,000 pickup trucks full of food in a line, a line that's 26 miles long.  That's a lot of food every year," explained Snow, outside of Salvation Farm's new Winooski location.  Snow founded the organization years ago, with the goal of increasing Vermont's food system by taking advantage of surplus goods within the state.

After surveying a group of farmers from 13 of 14 state counties, she says, 14.3 million pounds are wasted.  "A lot of food farmers produce doesn't make it to market, doesn't always make it to people's homes," Snow said.

"Anything that's too small, to big, maybe discolored a little bit, misshapen a little big, if it has some scarring.  For the most part none of that stuff goes to our wholesale market or farmers markets," stated Hilary Martin, a Co-Owner of Diggers' Mirth Collective Farm.  The operation is based out of Burlington's Intervale.  The 25 year old farm produces mixed salad greens, annual herbs and gourds, cucumbers for example.

Taking advantage of Digger's Mirth produce is where Snow would come in.  "Most of these outlets that feed our food insecure and our vulnerable, the sick, the young, the elderly, they're sourcing food from out of state," said the Founder of Salvation Farms.

Vermont has a 14 percent food insecurity rate.  That means roughly 80 thousand Vermonters struggle to find full meals each day.  Snow says farms are slowly trying to change that thanks to something called gleaning.  "The gleaning program allows us to keep stuff in the field, not have to lift it ourselves, avoid the time it takes to get it out of the field.  Usually volunteers will come, clear that in a way that's in time for us to remove that crop from the field and allows us to effectively manage the field," stated Martin.

Those gleaning volunteers then send the excess crops to processing plants, like Salvation Farm's Winooski location.  Snow says they'll be able to handle up to 100,000 pounds of food a season.  The food is then sent to the people who need it most.  Martin and Snow say it's a long road to ending hunger in Vermont, but every little bit helps.  "We're really wanting people to have fresh produce, and we have plenty of it," said Martin.

To put that 14.3 million pound vegetable and fruit number into perspective, Theresa Snow says that amount of food could provide 10 thousand adults in Vermont with ten servings per day annually.


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