Win a copy of Straw Bale Building Details this week in the Straw Bale House forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
  • Anne Miller
  • Mike Jay
  • Jocelyn Campbell
stewards:
  • Devaka Cooray
  • Burra Maluca
  • Joseph Lofthouse
garden masters:
  • Dave Burton
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Mike Barkley
  • Shawn Klassen-Koop
  • Pearl Sutton

Sharing Excess Food -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 1367
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
352
books forest garden rabbit solar tiny house woodworking
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My own experiences --

Waste story, the bad & ugly...
This is the time of year that we bestow gifts upon friends and neighbors. But in my own community, we tend to gift year around. So I've been in the habit of giving away excess food that my farm produces. Originally I would drop off boxes of food to churches, community centers, senior centers, and individuals. I felt that I was doing good. But about a year into this I discovered that much of the food was wasted. Even my friends wasted the food I gave them. I would come by a few weeks later only to find too many times the food was rotting away in the box or bottom of the frig. Being bitterly disappointed, I decided that I needed to change how I was going about this. Rather than stop giving away excess, I came up with solutions that worked better and made me happier.
Solution #1- feed the excess to my livestock. That way at least it wouldn't be wasted. But it seemed such a shame to add beautiful veggies and eggs to the livestock slop.
Solution #2- come up with a better system of food sharing.

Success stories.....
Options I now use:
1- when a local group is planning a food giveaway, I'd contact them offering my excess. I'd drop off my boxes in the beginning of the event, insisting on lining up the open boxes at the end of the giveaway lines, with signs to take what you need. I knew from experience that much would get wasted if the veggies and eggs were simply placed in the routine food giveaway bags. I wanted people to take my veggies who really wanted them so that it wouldn't end up in the trash. The organizers didn't like my method because everybody didn't get a chance for an equal share. But I stuck to my guns and insisted on "the early bird gets the worm" approach.
2- I often leave a box of "take what you want" veggies with our local coffee truck. Lots of local folks stop or drive by when the truck is there. So everything gets taken within a couple hours.
3- when there is a community event, I often will often offer to bring boxes of free veggies to be given away. Again, it's a "take what you want" system. But at the community events I have to post a sign to "please kokua" which basically means in this situation to be considerate of others. We did once have a person come by who tried to load everything into their car. Since people are now reminded to be polite, the food giveaway is working fine. Geez, there's always one bad apple in the barrel that can ruin a good thing for everyone else. So now an eye is kept open to stop the aggressive food takers (not that they need the food, but they intend to sell it at a local farmers market for a quick profit!)

Anyone else have tales about sharing your excess? I've heard many CSAs complain about seeing their food being wasted. Food waste is one reason I won't develop a CSA for my farm. I don't care if the people paid for it, I don't want to see it going into the trashcan.
 
Posts: 538
Location: Middle Georgia
79
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I once gave some of my hen's fresh brown eggs to a neighbor.

A week or so later I saw her and asked if she liked the eggs. Her reply was "Oh, no, I gave them to my mother, I don't eat brown eggs.  I guess they were brown because your chickens scratch around outside in the dirt?"

Haha. Learned my lesson! This woman was in her fifties! How on earth she managed to shop for the last 3 decades and never notice that brown eggs are sold at a premium in the grocery store is beyond me.
 
pollinator
Posts: 316
Location: Virginia
86
books chicken cooking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I dont have large amounts of excess (yet-thinking positive!) so I either just give it to my chickens or trade it with people who grow stuff I'm not good with. That way I know its not going to waste. I hate waste.

I had someone once tell me that "funny shaped eggs bother her".  She also thought my green shelled eggs meant they were moldy!  Aggghhhhh!
 
pollinator
Posts: 204
Location: Sask, Canada - Zone 3b
50
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Bad, bad, bad
  • Giving 2 of my best pumpkins to my sister's friend around thanksgiving one year. When I asked at christmas what they did with them, she said threw them in the garbage. Apparently they were forgotten about in a shelf and turned from a nice light orange to a blue, almost moldy colour :) (har har)
  • Gave a couple about a pound of my first ever crop of oyster mushrooms that I grew, and I'm 90% sure they threw them away. I had asked them 2 days later how the mushrooms tasted, and they replied "how what tasted?" "oh those, yes, good" - but from the tone I could tell they were being polite. (some people are really paranoid when dealing with home-grown mushrooms I've learned)  
  • I give a certain family member around 20-30 pounds of food per year. The potatoes get eaten, but most of the tomatoes, beans, garlic , onions, etc, all gets shoved in a freezer or pantry. I wouldn't mind that...if they didn't buy onions, tomatoes and garlic from the store the following week. *hits head again wall* (the good news is they cleaned their freezer out this year, so I took all of my 2 year old produce back and used it up in a week.)
  • A reverse point of view: a local family grows pumpkins for the stores at halloween. We moved our cows home in early November, and as we passed by their land I saw about 75+ rotting pumpkins in the field. I assume they weren't "store worthy" and so they were part of the typical "ugly food" waste. I would have loved to buy 20 of them even at full price back when they were in good condition - oh well, the deer must have enjoyed them.

  • The good-ish
  • Despite the 2 pumpkins rotting in the above tale, the other 4 people I gave excess to did use them to make pies.
  • I've given various berries and herbs away every year that always end up getting used quickly.
  • The only major feel-good story I can remember is in 2016, which was a great year for gardening: I was getting about 50 pounds of beans per week, for 5-6 weeks, so I ran around trying to give them away to everyone. Apparently the locals had enough beans for the year, so they took several bags to church on sunday, cut the ends off and gifted them to families in the next town over who had just immigrated to Canada.

  • Options I use now:
    I could have given away 10's of pounds of lettuce, spinach and chard this fall, but the effort of finding people that wanted them didn't seem to be worth it, at least that's what my gut told me. So, I ate a lot of salad in September and left the rest to feed the soil for next year.

    In the future, when I have enough land to really develop permaculture systems, I'll plan it out to only grow what annuals I need + 20% for excess that I give to close friends or barter with. The rest of the land will go into perennial plants, and if no one wants some of that excess produce from that, it can be like the lettuce this year and go back to the land, or the birds can have it, or whatever else is happy to eat it. Food Giveaways & Donations don't really work efficiently in the extreme rural area I'm in, and the amount of people who would eat the produce I grow is slim to none unfortunately - meat n' potato country.

    I have the same sentiments as Su Ba: there is nothing worse than taking the time and effort to grow something for months, GIFT it to someone (usually after they admire it), and then it ends up being thrown away.
     
    gardener
    Posts: 1068
    Location: mountains of Tennessee
    316
    bee cattle chicken homestead
    • Likes 5
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    THE GOOD

    Fairly certain that no honey is wasted. For the most part I've searched for & found folks who appreciate my small excess of garden fresh food. Generally older folks. Chickens get next pick. The cows gladly finish if anything is left over.

    Haven't had enough excess in TN yet to contact food banks. Had good food bank success in TX by simply giving it to people as they returned to their cars. I would usually try to pick moms who looked like they were having especially tough times. Found out that was against the "rules" but the powers that be chose to look the other way.

    THE BAD

    It seems many people won't eat brown eggs. Wonder what they would think if they saw green ones? I knew one lady who refused to even try purple green beans. Didn't matter that they turn green when heated. Same situation with yellow or purple carrots. Purple or striped tomatoes? No way. "Kohlrabi?? What's that? Those aren't black eyed peas. Black eyed peas come in cans." Sadly, many of the folks around here think the yellowish arches are a food group.

    THE UGLY

    Gave a friend a couple of large Seminole pumpkins. He unloaded them from his car. Set them on the ground. They rolled downhill & smashed into the neighbor's house. Accidental but still ugly. Accidents are understandable but I'd rather feed the worms than have it waste in someone's pantry or fridge.
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 261
    Location: PNW
    49
    books food preservation homestead cooking tiny house trees urban
    • Likes 4
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    These bad/ugly stories were painful to read.  I hate food waste, especially when it's homegrown produce.  People who don't cook or throw food away out of ignorance... arrgh.

    We have a lunch room at work where anyone can leave extra food of whatever kind for others to take.  It works pretty well.  I have left a variety of items there, especially when I went plant-based and had cans of tuna and salmon to get rid of.  My dad also liked to try different foods but didn't often like them so he would give them to me and anything I couldn't eat, I would haul in and leave there.

    This year I got super lucky with a coworker who has a couple big plum trees in the backyard.  He gave a bag to one of my teammates who gave some to me.  I told him later how great they were so he brought me my own bag.  He told me his wife hated those trees and wanted him to cut them down - yikes!  Bringing them to very appreciative people at work was an argument not to.  He said he will bring me some next year too.  I made a bunch of plum sauce with it and then shared the recipe with him.  It is so good.

    I also tried persimmons for the first time this year (like!) because someone grew them and kept leaving them there and then foisted some on a teammate who wouldn't actually eat them.  (One of those non-adventurous eaters.)  She gave some to me.

    I had a ton of baking apples this year and there is a coworker (very German) who values any/all extra food and especially produce.  So I shared a bunch with her.  I know she was appreciative.  We share recipes and cooking stories too.  I also shared with a good friend of mine who made lots of applesauce.  They are the only two I share with right now because I don't have a ton yet and I know they won't waste.

    I look forward to having lots of excess in the future and finding people to share with.  Until I can grow all my own, I would love to have one of those neighbors who fills my mailbox/doorway with zucchini.  :)
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 337
    Location: Denmark 57N
    49
    food preservation fungi cooking trees foraging
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Here if you have excess you shove it up on facebook and it's normally claimed within a few hours, overloaded fruit trees are the common ones. I don't give much away as I sell vegetables and giving it away would just undermine myself. Before we started selling we did try with the neighbours, but they are of the canned food variety.
    I have no problem with "wasting" home grown vegetables, it all goes back into the soil after all. We don't eat the deformed ones, or holey ones, there's plenty of nice ones there to pick from, I do not sell anything that is less than perfect, so we are normally eating from the slightly wonky/small/too big or oh crap I dropped that while washing it heap.

    I don't think there is anywhere you could give away food in bulk here, there's no such thing as a food bank, schools don't normally do food at all only boarding schools do really. care homes are 99% state run and therefore take from designated suppliers.  Also if you give food to these places you take away someone else's livelihood as someone will be selling them food. My parents in law's biggest customer is a boarding school, if someone started giving them spare food they would go bankrupt. (they are a small organic mixed veg farm).
     
    Posts: 19
    Location: Canterbury, New Zealand
    7
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    While we don't have any to give away yet, it's part of what we'd like to do in the future - so it's interesting in that respect to hear some of these stories!

    I do wonder though (entirely politely) - some of the bad experiences you've all had - how many of those came about because you generously shared - but didn't ask first if they really wanted it? (Even if you asked, I know some people have a hard time saying no even if they don't want it, because it feels rude)

    I know around these parts - a lot of people would likely say "yes please!" - but if the fruit & veg wasn't "top quality" (ie, blemish free) they'd likely quietly dispose of it rather than use it. People seem to fairly quickly associate any marks or oddities with it being diseased or unhealthy.

     
    Posts: 86
    23
    bee books dog food preservation forest garden fungi hugelkultur cooking rocket stoves trees wood heat
    • Likes 4
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Technically this wasn't a give-a-way.

    When I lived on a very rural road, in an impoverished area -

    I would sell my surplus organically grown produce a couple of days a week on a table by the road for 10 cents per vegetable/fruit (a potato - ten cents, an apple - ten cents) only to those who could show me a Medicare or Medicaid card. Great nutrition for those who really needed it.
     
    gardener
    Posts: 1870
    Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
    243
    forest garden urban
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Between the family and the rabbits our family has little excess produce.  On the other hand, I  am a big fan of large batch cooking and sharing food out.
    Before giving anything away I talk about what it is, how we'll use it, and whether the recipient has ever tried it. If their response is favorable  (yes, I really like it, no but I'd like to) I will offer to  bring the item in on another day. I think it's easier to say no thanks this way. I don't know that anyone wastes what I have given away. In fact, there are several people who ask for refills when we make more.
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 420
    Location: Derbyshire, UK
    46
    cat chicken urban
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Mine mostly goes to the chickens- else I know it only ends up in peoples fridges before being thrown away (and not even composted! It will go to landfill). I do give away eggs and I'm fairly sure they all get used (white eggs not being a thing here- almost all eggs are light brown!)- kids really like the little blue eggs from my cream legbar! If it goes to my chickens I don't feel too bad about it- they enjoy the greens and it really gets turned into eggs!
     
    Posts: 30
    5
    • Likes 3
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    I do wonder though (entirely politely) - some of the bad experiences you've all had - how many of those came about because you generously shared - but didn't ask first if they really wanted it? (Even if you asked, I know some people have a hard time saying no even if they don't want it, because it feels rude)

    I know around these parts - a lot of people would likely say "yes please!" - but if the fruit & veg wasn't "top quality" (ie, blemish free) they'd likely quietly dispose of it rather than use it. People seem to fairly quickly associate any marks or oddities with it being diseased or unhealthy.  



    I think this is a huge thing. I only give excess away to those who give an enthusiastic Yes!! Because I know how that goes. I don't bother giving any to certain people in my life except in small quantities. I actually have ended up doing some trading with someone else's excess. They had a million eggs and were just feeding them to the hogs. I love eggs for baking so I've traded them both baked goods and the enormous amount of excess delicata squash I ended up with. They have a big extended family and love delicata so it worked really well.

    In general if I have excess, I do something with it and then give it away. Since my excess is things like tomatoes, squash, berries, I'll make jam, pies, other baked goods and give those away. I enjoy the baking and it makes the things not go to waste. This only works because I have a lot of freezer space.

    For things like berries, I'll put them out for my roommate to eat for two or three days. She won't remember about them after that, so then they get frozen or preserved.

    I think it's about talking to people about food and cooking and then you can really see who will use your excess.
     
    gardener
    Posts: 676
    Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, NC, US
    178
    bee fish food preservation forest garden homestead hugelkultur cooking trees
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    I love seeing all the different forms of generosity here! It's nice however, like it's been mentioned above, for that generosity to be maximized and appreciated to have the greatest effect!

    One stategy I use is to give people just a little bit of something, usually taking it to a family or friends' house for dinner. That way you can see who really enjoys what, and like was mentioned above, if they really like it, they will usually comment on how good it is. Then I know who will use and appreciate each item the most, and it brings me joy knowing they really like it, and it brings them a lot of joy getting it since it's something they really like!
     
    permaculture is giving a gift to your future self. After reading this tiny ad:
    One million tiny ads for $25
    https://permies.com/t/94684/million-tiny-ads
    • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
    • New Topic
    Boost this thread!