Food Waste: Quantifying on-farm vegetable losses

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2015: $10,206.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2017
Grant Recipient: North Carolina State University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Nancy Creamer
North Carolina State University

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: cucurbits, tomatoes


  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development

    Proposal abstract:

    Edible crops that do not meet grade standards due to cosmetic issues such as size and shape can be of high nutritional quality, and could be marketed to commercial or institutional kitchens, discount grocery stores, or retail stores. Losses at the farm level can be significant, however, these losses are not included in recent food waste studies. Analysis of USDA data of just unharvested acreage suggests that in North Carolina alone approximately 117 million pounds of produce were unharvested in 2013. The purpose of this project is to quantify on-farm losses due to current USDA and/or retail grading standards for three crops. This includes crops left in the field following harvest (field graded), products graded out of on-farm packing lines, and products rejected at the buyer level. Knowing what volume is lost on-farm and why, is a first step to utilizing the entire crop, which increases agricultural sustainability by increasing the food supply and available nutrients in vegetable crops, efficient use of on-farm resources, creating greater efficiency in harvesting, sorting, and packing, improving economic viability of farms, and enhancing the quality of life for growers and society. Data collected will begin to fill the gap in knowledge about on-farm crop loss and can be utilized to improve sustainability in North Carolina and throughout the southern region. Addressing this issue, and ultimately reducing food waste on farms, will strengthen the competitiveness of North Carolina growers, and can help get food to those in need.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Determine volume of edible crops that remain in the field after harvesting to typical USDA standards for three crops in North Carolina. Determine reasons behind the loss of these crops.
    2. Determine volume of edible crops that are culled out of an on-farm packing line due to not meeting USDA standard on three farms in North Carolina.
    3. Determine what volume of edible crops was rejected at the buyer level from the partner farms.
    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.