I'm about to tell you how your (so called) fresh herbs and veggies make it from the farm, through the wholesalers, then the retailers and eventually in to your shopping trolley. This comes from my experience as a farmer in one of the largest food bowls in Australia, the Lockyer Valley just outside of Brisbane.
By all means, much of your produce makes it to the supermarket in reasonable time and in reasonable condition, with many people in the chain doing their best (in harsh conditions) to provide you with the best chance of freshness and value. But, at the same time, and i'm sure you can attest to this, a massive amount of what goes in your trolley is way overpriced and at a substandard quality that doesn't last in your fridge for more than 2 or 3 days.
It is a fact that every cabbage, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, coriander, parsley etc etc exits the farm gate in pristine condition. The wholesale market will not accept anything less and the amount of waste is phenomenal because of this. I know farmers that have had to plough their entire crop back in to the soil because it wasn't up to the wholesale standard or the wholesaler decided they didn't want it anymore. I personally have thrown thousands of plants at a time over the fence to my cows on more occasions than I care to remember. This food is still in a very edible condition and might have the slightest "cosmetic imperfections". Unfortunately this problem is because of you the consumer. I don't mean you individually or personally, but us collectively as consumers expect the best and only the best. Why can't we accept a slight blemish for a lesser price? Well I think most of us would but we don't get the option.
Research shows that up to 30% of produce doesn't leave the farm due to "imperfections" or "low demand" which drives the farmers profits so far down that it isn't financially viable for the farmer to harvest, package and transport to the market. He/she sucks up the losses (which are massive), goes further into debt and eventually has to sell the farm to multinational corporations who then have total control over food pricing. We all lose...
Why can't this waste go to schools to aid with obesity problems, to the homeless who pluck waste from garbage bins, to hospitals and aged care facilities OR why can't it make it to the supermarket shelves at discounted prices??? I'll tell you why - because big business may have to take a hit and governments spend our money on too many useless things to have any left over to fund such projects.
Anyway, back to my original story. Lets say I done a handshake deal with a wholesaler to provide them with 10,000 lettuce in 8 weeks time at an "agreed" price of 90c each. This is how we have to do business in most cases as written contracts are almost nonexistent (or hardly worth the paper they are written on). Mind you they have probably set up deals with others to ensure they get their required quantity unbeknown to others.
I buy the seeds and plant extra to account for losses, I closely monitor the growth and adjust as required and I even sing to those babies (which could actually cause those losses)
Move ahead 8 weeks and i have 10,000 of the best quality fresh lettuce you could imagine, but guess what. "Oh sorry mate we don't need them, we can't sell them, we have too many, blah blah, so we will give you 50c each". Once again I have to practically give them away only to walk through the supermarkets to see them fetching in excess of $3.50...
I took the risk, I carried out the work, I paid to harvest, I had to package (the box alone cost me about $2 and holds only 8 lettuce) and then I had to transport to the wholesalers on the same day as harvest. Somewhere between the wholesaler and your trolley another $3.00 has been added to your lettuce!!! AND TO TOP IT OFF, that lettuce in your trolley was harvested 1 or 2 weeks ago. You'll be lucky to get a couple of days out it...
It's no wonder farmers are declining at an alarming rate while big business continues to make record profits. Just look at our dairy industry...
I have shifted my life's ambition from growing for you to "you growing for you".
Our range of Salad Tables have been developed based on exactly the same process that i use on my farm. You can grow that lettuce for less than 40c, it's fresh and you know exactly where it came from.
Founder - The Salad Table