A couple of months ago, I wrote about Rubies in the Rubble – a London start-up that works towards tackling food waste. Now a similar initiative is taking place in the Bay Area. Grist reports that most farmers resort of plowing surplus food back into the ground because they don’t have many options to sell the leftovers after harvest.
However Larry Bain, owner of grass-fed beef hot dog company Let’s be Frank saw an opportunity in this waste. He teamed up with several Bay Area businesses including Bi-Rite Market to figure out what to do with this high quality food that was just being turned into compost. With the launch of The Gleaning Project, Bain aims to buy this excess produce from farmers at a reduced price and then he is going to make the effort to preserve it.
Farmers plow back almost 50 percent of what they grow when markets seem unfavorable to harvest, pack, and ship produce. From a farming point of view, losses increase only at this processing stage when fresh produce has to be harvested, washed, sorted, packaged, and distributed.
Bain worked with Andy Griffin, owner of California based Mariquita Farms on a pilot project involving green garlic which is less perishable than many others. One of the Gleaning Project’s first experiments was green garlic, a crop that’s less perishable than most, making it the perfect crop. Bain bought 280 pounds of green garlic from Griffin and sent the bulk of it to a commercial kitchen which turned it into 260 jars of pesto. A smaller portion was turned into pickled. Now both products are being sold at the Bi-Rite market.
If Bain had no stepped in, the crop would have just ended up fertilizing the fields. Through this initiative, an additional revenue stream has been put in motion both for Bain and Griffin. Now they are looking forward to turning apricots into jam and deciding what to do with the tomato crop in August.
The project is a tightly-timed danced that highlights, “the interconnectedness and unpredictability of a local food system. Griffin may have only a few days to contact Bi-Rite and alert them of a surplus, and within that time, Bain needs to find a commercial kitchen that can handle the pickling and/or preserving”, according to Grist writer Deena Shanker.
This means that he needs to find a commercial kitchen that is willing to take large orders on short notice, which is difficult as a lot of them have long waiting lists. Preserving company, Happy Girl Kitchen which is part of the project is happy to oblige, making this an all-round win win.
Image Credit: Palosirkka, Wikimedia Commons