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.
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 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, 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.