AUGUST 15, 2017 – Food waste is a topic receiving a lot of attention currently. Since perishable produce is especially vulnerable to spoilage and, therefore, waste, the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (CFVGA) is working with its growers to offer options to reduce waste, which can occur for a number of reasons, including:
Labor shortages – A shortage or absence of a qualified labor force to harvest and process fresh produce not only deprives consumers of good fruits and vegetables, it is financially devastating to Colorado fruit and vegetable growers. Few local residents have the skills, desire and stamina to harvest produce or are willing to give up their fulltime employment, making it necessary in most situations, to employ seasonal harvest crews. While there are plenty willing and able to travel to the United States to work as harvesters, U.S. immigration laws have made it very difficult for U.S. growers to comply with requirements of short-term labor programs, such as H2A. CFVGA is working with Western Growers to aggressively address these problems and call for foreign labor programs that are advantageous for employee and employer alike.
“Colorado produce growers are working hard to attract and retain a skilled agricultural labor force,” said CFVGA Labor Committee Chair Reid Fishering, Mountain Quality Sweet Corn, Montrose, Colo. “However, what we do will have little impact unless Washington politicians are willing to enact programs that allow for an orderly flow of temporary workers into our fields and orchards during the growing season.
Limited markets for “seconds” – Blemished, misshapen and wrong-sized produce can head to the rubbish bin, compost or, at best, to animal feed yards, depriving consumers of perfectly healthy food and growers of income. CFVGA is working to make growers aware of food banks, such as the Feeding Colorado network, as a sales and donations opportunity for seconds and secondary purchasers. Additionally, CFVGA informs growers about emerging secondary markets such as Food Maven, which finds markets for oversupply. CFVGA also supports organizations that organize gleaning fields and orchards for produce that would otherwise go unharvested.
“The five Feeding America food banks across the state known as Feeding Colorado work directly with producers through our purchasing program and by accepting donations,” said Karen McManus, Feeding Colorado. “Colorado producers play a vital part in our hunger relief efforts while keeping food waste to a minimum.”
Erratic and undependable markets – Community supported agriculture (CSA) models where consumers commit to farmers with their dollars prior to planting a crop help even out supply and demand and ensure growers income. However, growers selling to wholesale buyers are more vulnerable to the whims of the market, where supply, demand and pricing may fluctuate wildly and can negatively impact income. CFVGA is working through its website grower directory https://coloradoproduce.org/produce-directory/ to put growers together with buyers to increase the likelihood produce enters the food system profitably.
“CFVGA’s goal is to increase produce grower profitability,” said CFVGA President Robert Sakata, Sakata Farms, Brighton, Colo. “One of the ways we do this is to provide a directory where buyers can see who is growing the produce item they wish to buy and providing them with contact information. It’s simple but not something that existed before CFVGA was formed in 2014.”
CFVGA continues to work on these and in other areas to reduce the waste of produce as well as to help growers be more profitable. CFVGA also encourages consumers to reduce food waste. Here are just a few tips:
Buy Colorado produce when possible. Learn about Colorado’s production cycle and what produce is available when. Then, plan your family’s menu’s based on what you can buy fresh. This helps utilize more of the harvest.
Eat some, preserve some. Freezing excess produce is easy. Your county Extension office can provide you with resources to freeze, can and dry excess produce.
Shop produce often. Find a favorite grocery store, produce stand or farmer and shop them often, so your produce is fresh.
Plan your menus around produce shelf-life. Produce shelf-life varies greatly. Plan to eat green salads with more quickly perishable lettuces first, green salad with longer-lasting Romaine next, and cabbage salad with the best shelf-life following that.
“The Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association has recipes, buying information and a produce calendar, all designed to help both consumers and commercial produce buyers understand and best utilize Colorado produce,” said Marilyn Bay Drake, CFVGA executive director. “Check them out.”
To help Colorado consumers understand the Colorado produce season, CFVGA has published a Colorado Produce Calendar, available to the public athttps://coloradoproduce.org/nutrition-health-2/ This link also enables viewers to click on a produce item and go to detailed nutrition, purchasing, storage and preparation information for each produce item. In addition, CFVGA’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CFVGA/ features seasonal recipes.
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