It all started with sweet peppers. One August afternoon years ago, we were harvesting peppers and sorting out the ones that had a few blemishes, making them unsellable at full retail price. The pile of “unsellable” peppers was getting pretty large and we thought to ourselves, “You know, these are still pretty good peppers….maybe someone would want to buy them at a lower price.” We started selling “seconds” peppers at our farm market and it was a win-win-win: customers loved the lower price, we farmers loved selling more product, and everyone was happy to reduce food waste. Scott Blunk, our compost czar, referred to this as our “bent-n-dent” department and we’ve harvested our peppers differently ever since.
Then in 2017, we got an email from someone at Greensgrow Farms in Kensington. They had received a grant to purchase seconds from local farms and turn the slightly ugly, but perfectly usable vegetables into value-added products for their CSA and other food access programs. We were excited to partner with them on this project and over the course of the season we sold just under $1,000 in seconds to Greensgrow. After their grant funding ran out for that program, we didn’t want a good thing to end. We thought to ourselves, “Hey, we can still do this!”
So we created a new seconds price tier at our farm market for over a dozen of the vegetables we grow. When you shop at our farm market you can find the “seconds” section where we display all the reduced price items together.
We also talked with our kitchen managers at each of our stores about working with this type of product. The response was great! Another win-win-win: the kitchens can buy more product from the farms at a lower price, the farms can sell more product to our kitchens, and our customers get more tasty items on the hot bar with ingredients from their own farms! Every Saturday, you can find a sautéed greens dish on the hot bar in the Chestnut Hill store, made from collards, kale or chard that are still delicious and nutritious, but have a few holes and won’t make the cut to sell otherwise.
Since the beginning of this season we have sold $3,381 in produce seconds. Of that, $2,043 was sold to farm market customers, $1,234 was purchased by our kitchens, and $104 was sold to our wholesale outlets, such as restaurants or the cafeteria at Saul High School. And the season’s not over yet. We are so happy to be reducing our food waste while also increasing our sales, and inviting our customers to be part of the solution.