The other day I was reading an online article (at theconversation.com) (it was raining) which finished with “people who grow their own waste less” and we should therefore replace the “farm to plate” production line with “garden to plate”. As I had just thrown out some lettuces that had gone over, I had a debate with myself about whether growing my own vegetables increased or decreased our food waste and of course it becomes impossible to say.
I measure the quantity of food that we produce that gets into the kitchen but I don’t measure how much gets thrown away.
When we shop for food, we buy what we want for the next day’s or week’s menu and adjust our menu according to whether there’s too much of any given vegetable (we regularly have fried cabbage as a vegetable to use up cabbage when it looks a bit iffy). However, growing your own removes much of that flexibility. If you’re trying not to waste food you’ve grown, its a problem in the natural scheme of production. At the moment our lettuces are “overproducing”. There’s only so many salads you can eat and, try as we will, limited successional sowing, etc., we end up with more than we can eat. The excess goes into the compost heap.
Later in the year, the same may end up being true with courgettes. Working out how many plants to grow to get us “just the right number” is hard. Some years they do really well so we end up with a huge glut, other years not so good and we run short. We can (and do) freeze the excess as ratatouille, soup and other things (as well as diluting minced beef with large quantities of courgettes but we add to the food waste mountain.
Add to that the carrot “thinnings” when I’ve sown them too thickly (professionals would be more accurate), the radishes that don’t seem to create anything edible (again farmers probably do better) and you can see where I’m coming from.
Preserving (be it freezing, bottling, pickling or whatever) can only cope with a certain amount of the oversupply (we’ve just finished our glut of broad beans from two years ago frozen down).
So, I suppose my question comes down to this. Is growing your own increasing or decreasing food waste. I have a feeling that it increases it but at least its my waste, not some supermarket setting criteria that the farmer has to achieve.
What do you think?