Why is food wasted at the farm
High standards of produce appearance
As consumers, believe it or not, we have demanded high standards for produce appearance. These days, we want fruit & veg to look perfect and guaranteeing this creates waste.
Produce is graded by appearance and the normal grading lingo sounds a bit like this: ‘Tag 1’= zero Wonkiness, ‘Tag 2’ = Wonky, ‘Tag 3’ = so Wonky it gets sent straight to the juicing factory.
Big retailers want to sell Tag 1 produce, because it looks better than their competition. Therefore the price of the Tag 2 & Tag 3 produce is driven down. With the rising cost of harvesting, often growers are left with no choice and the lower graded lines are ploughed back into paddocks.
If you ask growers what they struggle with the most, it’s the weather. Long periods of rainfall = wet land = difficult growing environment. When produce like parsnips or pumpkin become too wet, it’s can create marks just under the skin. For other veg like silverbeet, if the ground is too wet, it simply can’t be pulled from the ground without being damaged. Too much sun, stunts growth of a lot of veg like broccoli & cauliflower but there is no changing the fact that we’re at the mercy of the weather.
Extreme weather events are also becoming more common is this vicious climate cycle. Throw back to mid c*v*d, in particular boxing day 2020 when Nelson had a freak hail storm, whole apple orchards were wiped out just at harvesting time.
Thousands of migrants come to New Zealand annually to pick produce. Over lockdown, with borders closed, growers were unable to hire labour to help with harvesting. Speaking directly to one Wonky Box supplier, we were told of fields of produce being left unpicked after being unable to hire the workforce over winter 2022.
On a positive note, more recently we’ve heard of improvements with the labour shortage and in September 22, the government announced a new RSE scheme that will allow for 3000 more migrant workers to relieve the horticulture sector.
Increase in fuel & fertiliser
With fuel having increased by over 70% and fertiliser almost tripling, the cost to pluck a parsnip from the ground is often not worth it. As prices continue to escalate, growers want to ensure they’ll get a return on their investment before making the cut.