Local Product Essay

“It’s based on trust between us and the supplier,” he said.For example, Rose said, he recently sent 300 pounds of watermelon radishes to a big grocery store, only to have it sent back because of decay that happened in-transit.“I’m an environmental journalist, not an environmentalist.” I’ve said this countless times over the course of my career, usually to make a distinction between myself and the people I write about.

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When we spoke in December, he said the loss was “probably closer to 50 or 60 percent.” He can’t prove the decline is because people decided to switch to Imperfect Produce.

But CSAs in other cities where Imperfect is thriving are reporting Cadji also believes Imperfect Produce is doing “sneaky little things to undercut CSAs”—like, for example, advertising itself as a “CSA Style Box.” He said this is misleading, and has the potential to lure away potential CSA customers who believe they’re signing up for something similar.

I’d arrange the strange produce in bowls on my dining room table.

After a few months, I started noticing orange-and-brown cardboard boxes everywhere.

Simon, meanwhile, claimed producers don’t want their brands to be associated with misshapen goods, adding that it’s not particularly business-savvy to disclose one’s suppliers.

“Competitors would love to know all of our growers,” he said.I am an environmentalist, in the sense that I believe humans should modify their behavior for the benefit of the planet. Every year in America, between 30 to 40 percent of food available for consumption goes uneaten.The majority of that is thrown away at home and at restaurants, but anywhere from 11 to 16 percent—about 20 billion pounds—comes from farms that can’t find buyers for their products.If I received a Hungry Harvest box every other week, I reasoned, I’d be saving 260 pounds of fruits and vegetables from being wasted every year.And even if I wound up throwing away half of my box, it would still be a net environmental benefit because the produce would have been thrown away otherwise—or so I thought.I felt a twinge of pride when, every other Sunday morning, an orange-and-brown cardboard box showed up in the mailroom of my apartment building.I would bring it upstairs and marvel at its contents: tiny avocados, bruised pears, hilariously oversized eggplants.“It’s really a minority of it.”I don’t have the exact figure for how much comes from Big Ag, however we define that,” he said.“I can tell you it’s not a lot.” The average farm the company buys from is under 500 acres, he said, and he insisted that all of the fruits and vegetables in Hungry Harvest boxes would have gone to waste, either by getting thrown out, composted, or left in the field. How can Hungry Harvest promise that a farmer wasn’t going to sell her bruised cucumbers to a different surplus company, or donate it to a food bank?“The first thing we did was call Hungry Harvest,” Rose said.“The timing was crazy, but we wound up getting 50 cents on the dollar on it, where we wouldn’t have gotten anything on it.” But Rose also made a surprising acknowledgement: Not all of the food New Sprout Farms sells to Hungry Harvest was going to waste before the service came along.


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