I think farm food waste is a huge problem, but it's not the farmers’ fault. It is the ignorance of the people.
Most people don't know they can eat pumpkins and squash in a variety of ways that are extremely filling, cheap and delicious. We have been curated into cooking and eating a certain way, so when we see oddly shaped squash that are unique colours, we only see them as table decorations and not what should be filling the dishes on the table.
I started food preserving (food) in my teens out of curiosity. It has now turned into a full time hobby and passion. Almost all vegetables can be preserved through water bath canning or pressure canning. The problem is the lack of knowledge to do so.
Most people don't do this anymore as it takes too much time and (some feel it) is too costly. But to those who say it is too costly, I would say, they’re buying the wrong produce.
I am a dedicated customer of Paynter's Market (in West Kelowna), which routinely throughout the summer, sells its misshapen and semi-bruised fruit at 50 cents per pound.
I have picked up wind-fall peaches for 20 cents per pound. I have jars of jam that have cost me as little as $1.20 to make (this includes all ingredients that went into the jam.)
I bought flats of squash last winter from a farm that sold however many squash you could fit into the flat for $20. I pressure canned them and ended up with 14 quarts of squash, ready to eat or turn into soup. That's $1.40 per quart.
The problem is not the farms, the problem is the people.
We have lost touch with our food—what it is, how to cook it, how to make it taste delicious and how to preserve it. The squash I canned last year will sit good on my shelf for five-plus years as per safety guidelines.
Recently, Paynter's Fruit Market put out bags of apples, left over from its season, for purchase. Alongside those apples was a bin of free apples and pears and a few butter nut squash too.
Yes, they are a bit small, ugly and some were bruised, but the apple butter I plan on making with the apples doesn't care. Further more, it was free, making my final pints of apple butter under $1 each after added the ingredients.
Farming hasn't changed. Seeds are planted, plants grow, food is created. I worked a season in the market at Paynter’s, simply for a love of the farm and a desire to learn more about agriculture. It blew my mind how many people I had to educate on what was grown and that yes, you can eat it.
Recently, my husband and I were driving along Rutland Road to the YMCA and I saw all the pumpkins not purchased after halloween, covered in snow. It saddened me that so much food was sitting there with a future of rotting when so many people are struggling to buy groceries. Those pumpkins were not just suitable for carving as lanterns, but capable of becoming the most delicious, and filling soup. Not only that, it's dead easy to make.
I would encourage more people to learn about how to preserve food, how to get in touch with their local farms to purchase the overflow at a cheaper rate.
I know farmers hate seeing their crops go to waste, and if it came down to it, would rather give it away than see it rot.
We don't have a food shortage in Canada, and especially the Okanagan. We have a shortage of knowledge on how to eat and preserve the food that our region grows.
Don't know where to start? I learned most of what I know onYouTube.