Farmer harvest decisions and vegetable loss in primary production

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2017: $219,971.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2020
Grant Recipient: North Carolina State University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Rebecca Dunning
North Carolina State University Horticulture
The topic of food loss and waste has risen in importance since the revelation that an estimated 40% of food in America is never consumed. Losses at the field level, however, are not well understood, and economic and growing conditions that dictate decisions made by fruit and vegetable growers can determine how much food is left unharvested. Many strategies have been suggested to reduce food loss and waste, but their development has been informed by concerns at the consumer level, and may not motivate growers to reduce losses. This study sought to understand how growers make decisions regarding when to end the harvest, and explores growers' perceptions of strategies that would incentivize them to reduce losses. The authors conducted seventeen semi-structured interviews with mid-sized to large commercial vegetable growers in North Carolina. The resulting findings clarify the primary decision-making drivers affecting food loss in the field, including whether growers have an interested buyer, the quality of the produce, the available price, the financial risk of product rejection, and the priority of another field becoming mature and ready to harvest.
Peer-reviewed Journal Article
Lisa Johnson, NCSU
Dara Bloom, NCSU
Rebecca Dunning, NCSU
Chris Gunter, NCSU
Michael Boyette, NCSU
Nancy Creamer, NCSU
Target audiences:
Farmers/Ranchers; Educators; Researchers
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.