The day went by without me even knowing, apparently September 29 was declared by the UN as the first ever observance of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. How did I miss this, while my current daily work is all about food. 

A learning experience. Due to some personnel changes,  for a hopefully short time, I am the informal leader of the dairy production team at the farm where I work. As I told you in earlier postings, this is a biodynamic farm, community supported, which means we engage in direct marketing. This is great, and the way to go for the future if you ask me. 

An interesting experience indeed. I am mostly involved in the ‘white line’, yoghurt and fresh cheeses, which means the ‘road’ from source, the milk from the cows in the barn next to the dairy to consumer is very direct and the challenge each week is to produce enough to supply all the stores and coops with the variety of products they desire, but not too much that products remain too long in our cooling room and pass their ‘sell by date’. Food waste is what we want to avoid. Fortunately, most of the time, everything is eaten, by customers and by our farm community. 

The farm is doing well. The number of members has rapidly risen over the last few years. A good thing, customers are becoming more aware in general of the importance of organic food. The area farmed has also increased, a sign of the times. Many farms in the region can no longer manage, they still want their fields to be worked, to have organically worked fields is even advantageous, from an environmental standpoint obviously, but also from a financial standpoint in farm subsidies received. The farm therefor has an opportunity to expand its reach. Good, but also challenging.

Customers have changed. Or maybe it is only natural that the larger the customer base, the harder it is to have direct contact with everyone personally. Customers have changed nonetheless, and our work is much more supply and demand than it was before. The stores and the coops send in their order each week and we try to honor that. Yet it is also the case that all our products are intricately linked and this is not always communicated: We take the cream off before we make hard cheese, the cream is used to make butter. From the butter making process comes butter milk, as a ‘waste’ product. We make quark, from the quark making process we take off the cream, this is the sour cream. If we don’t make quark because of low demand, we take the cream from the cheesemaking process, it is also sour, but that means we make less butter. Making cheese also results in another waste product, the whey, it is mostly eaten by the pigs on the farm, but even they have a limit. The best product for me is yoghurt, hands down, no waste products, and relatively quick turn-around. At home, I make yoghurt cheese from left-over yoghurt, it keeps a long time and I mix it will all things, sweet or savory. 

The hard cheeses on the other hand, even though they can be stored for a long time, also need a lot of work, wash and turn, twice weekly. In short, more people eating organic products is a good thing, the challenge is to create awareness about production, shelf life and how to minimize waste and overconsumption.

Meeting the challenge of producing ‘just enough’ is not easy!

And this is as much as a problem as is the problem of people going hungry, or having access only to unhealthy food. It is the paradox of our current world, we can produce enough healthy food to feed the world, yet too much in one place, too little in another is our current conundrum. 

But if you have ever been involved in growing food, where people work hard for little pay, FOOD WASTE HURTS.

I believe in the system of direct marketing, to supply people with healthy food choices as well as to minimize food waste. Efforts to develop local food systems, support small and local growers, even though it may not always seem the optimum economic choice, I believe is the way to empower communities, to mitigate climate challenges and minimize over exploitation. It is not just a production or distribution problem. 

Inform yourself on all things food, too much too little, just enough, we can do this, together.