Answering the Challenge of Food Waste

The sustainable agriculture and food movement includes more than providing food, animal, and plant products that protect the environment and human and animal communities; it’s also about wisely consuming the food and products we grow and have so that none is needlessly wasted.


A Rallying Cry Against Waste: U.S. Food Waste Challenge

To address this concern, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are collaborating to form the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. This initiative calls on those across the food chain—producer groups, processors, manufacturers, retailers, communities and other government organizations—to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste.


According to studies, food waste in the United States makes up an estimated 30 to 40 percent of the food supply. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack states, “The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste." EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe adds, “Addressing this issue [of food waste] not only helps with combating hunger and saving money, but also with combating climate change: food in landfills decomposes to create potent greenhouse gases.” With the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, the USDA and EPA aim to educate people about the problem of food waste and address this problem across the nation.


Our Farmer Veterans Answer the Call to Battle Food Waste

Our farmer veterans are also doing their part to contribute to the movement against food waste. James Jeffers and Steve Smith, two Army buddies who both were deployed in support of OIF, started Eat the Yard, an urban farming project that includes food scrap collection as one of its main components.


James Jeffers served nine years in the Army, including two tours in support of OIF. For his service, he was awarded a Purple Heart and two Bronze Star Medals, including one for Valor. A decorated 70% combat disabled veteran, James found solace through farming. He was first introduced to urban farming and aquaponics through videos posted by Growing Power, a national nonprofit organization and land trust that supports people from diverse backgrounds through the development of Community Food Systems. James has also been involved with FVC, attending our retreats and working with our staff to build the groundwork for his business.


Though James does not come from a farming family, he found a healing mission in agriculture. He says, “I was your typical rehab solider who found [farming] completely therapeutic, peaceful, quiet and distracting, reminding me of my childhood and overall more positive meaningful times than all that I had seen and experienced.”


Steve Smith grew up in a rural community in Upstate New York and still carries childhood memories of visiting farms and picking fresh fruit from trees. Steve worked in the culinary industry before serving for four-and-a-half years in the Army. After his service, he worked for foundation-building companies, but longed to be involved in farming. Partnering with his Army buddy James to realize his dream, together they started Eat the Yard, with four locations in Dallas, Texas.


Eat the Yard: Ecologically Feeding the Local Community

Eat the Yard, which along with food scrap collection, focuses on vegetable production (both specialty and non-specialty items, including micro greens, micro-lettuces, and summer vegetables) and aquaponics, a sustainable food production system where aquatic animals (e.g. fish) and plants are raised in a symbiotic environment. Their foods scrap collection service provides as many as five-gallon buckets for chefs and grocers to fill and are collected every week. These scraps are then made into compost and used on vegetable plots—reflecting Eat the Yard’s philosophy of reusing, repurposing, recycling, and reducing.


Both James and Steve were awarded with a Bob Woodruff Farming Fellowship through our Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund. James will use his award to purchase a walk-behind tractor to use in cultivating vegetable plots, and Steve will purchase a biodiesel box truck that will double as both a delivery tool and a cold box.


Together, they are using Eat the Yard to provide fresh, nutritious food to their local community while growing and cultivating their produce using the most sustainable practices.


To learn more about how to take part in the sustainable food movement, contact us.


1 response to Answering the Challenge of Food Waste

  • Great post. It’s a bit embarrassing that our easy access to food in this country results in so much of it being thrown away. Not only does it create large amounts of unnecessary trash, but food waste in landfills is their number one source of methane production (a potent greenhouse gas).

    I’m hoping we see more comprehensive food waste collection programs that separates food from the waste stream and diverts it to anaerobic digestors that can produce clean power. There is a lot of unused potential.

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    Our own Michele Pfannenstiel, President FVC Maine, made a visit to Dick Royer's Farm last week. While there she was able to snap a few pictures of him and his wife.  Earlier in the month we were able to connect him with with Chet Bennetts, Director of Farm Development, to assist in business planning for his farm.


    "I just received the one page business plan from Chet. He told me he was sending it to me what I thought was a form or a sheet of paper to fill out turns out to be a 90+ page workbook and a cd! Wow I am so glad to have found you guys! I finally think I maybe on the right path to getting my farm on a good footing. Thank you so so much for your help..." 

    - Dick Royer


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  • Mar 18th, 2014
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  • Mar 2nd, 2014
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    Frederick “Fred” John Fleming, whose namesake includes both sets of great-grandfathers, is now entering the latest chapter in his lucrative agribusiness career: the hand-off to the next generation. Fred is ready to train and assist someone in taking over his 32-year old seed company, Reardan Seed Co., Inc. located in the state of Washington. The succession will not be following lineage lines.


    The two Fleming adult children, now in successful professions other than farming (healthcare and education), are not interested in any of the four agribusinesses Fred and his wife, Vicki, manage: the Lazy Y J Farms (est. 1888); Shepherd’s Grain; the Reardan Seed Co., Inc.; and their latest start-up, Rhizoterra, Inc., a soil preparation company.


    Fred, always a forward-thinker, is a step-ahead of the farming crisis: a third of US farmers are older than 65 and retiring. His plan of action is to reach out now and make an investment with an individual who is interested in agriculture. Fred has already proven successful at integrating a non-family member into the management of the Lazy Y L Farms business. Now the Fleming’s are reaching out to Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) in their search for a hard-working individual to manage and, eventually, over time own Reardon Seed.


    Why FVC? Fred says it best: “I’m a veteran, as were both my parents, and I know that a veteran will have the necessary drive to work hard.” A hardworking individual isn’t all Fred is looking for because the right fit for Reardan Seed also includes a background and strong interest in agriculture, not necessarily farming, but perhaps experience in life sciences or agronomy.


    If you’re interested in making a lifelong commitment to building an already successful ag-related business and have fun doing it, then you want to talk to Fred. He can be reached at:

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  • Feb 28th, 2014