24% of food produced in the US is wasted. Instead of feeding people, this food goes to landfills, is incinerated, or is never harvested at all and left to rot in the fields. A lot of the food grown in the US never even makes it off the farm. In 2019, 13.9 million tons of produce grown in the US was not harvested. More than half of that number (7 million tons) came from California.
The carbon footprint consequences of each of these waste avenues is immense. That footprint represents the energy and water it takes to grow this food, and then the waste-emitting consequence of leaving it sitting somewhere to rot. So it’s incredibly impactful to find ways not only to reduce waste, but also redirect food that can’t be sold towards productive uses.
Where there is challenge, there is opportunity! And that opportunity can start with farms. The principles of regenerative farming offer a lot in the way of solutions for food waste. Excess food may be recycled back into the soil as compost. Compost in turn nourishes the soil and crops, and produces more nutritious food. In 2021, we recycled 70,000 lbs of fruit to make over three thousand tons of compost and our trees thank us for it!
Beyond compost, at Frog Hollow Farm we also take great pride in our ability to utilize as much fruit as possible for its best use: human consumption. Where a grocery store may only accept unblemished, “perfectly” sized fruit (which works out to be only ~10% of the total crop), our farmers market crowd and CSA community enjoys fruit that’s deemed too small or too large, too ripe or too imperfect to be sold to grocery stores–but sweet all the same.
We also dry our “excess” fruit or make it into conserves. All in all, “upcycling” fruit in this way (instead of leaving it in the field as might happen on another farm) has saved about 9.21 tons of CO2eq and 5 million gallons of water in the last year.* That’s equivalent to 2 passenger vehicles driven for one year and about 8 Olympic swimming pools worth of water.
L: Emerald Beaut plums laying to dry and R: making apricot conserve
To us, regenerative farming is about respecting what and who it took to grow, harvest, and handle our fruit. We conserve resources where we can: our micro sprinklers save about 191 million gallons of water–or 290 Olympic pools–every year! And we optimize the harvest wherever possible. What we can’t eat goes into compost and becomes nutrients for our soil so we may begin the cycle all over again.
We’re drawing on the age-old tradition of food preservation so we can enjoy the flavors of our summer harvest year round. We’re creating a significant amount of food for consumption. And we’re creating jobs and year-round employment for our crew to do this work, contributing to the health of our local economy.
Regenerative farming is more nutritious for the consumer, more profitable for the farmer, more beneficial for farming communities, and much more sustainable for the land. It just makes sense! Happy Earth Day to all of you, whose support keeps us going. We’re all playing a part in tackling these huge issues facing our food systems and our world… one peach at a time!
*Sustainability figures come from the incredible resource that is the ReFED Impact Calculator, based on our harvest data.