Thursday, October 18, 2012

Food Farmer Earth: Co-packing Helps Farms Succeed

In this interview for Food Farmer Earth, I ask Paul Fuller of Sweet Creek Foods to explain what co-packing is and what it means for our local farmers.

When was the last time you saw a misshapen tomato or a scarred piece of fruit in the produce section at your local store? Even at the farmers' markets, most of the fruit is a pretty uniform size and shape, clean and unscarred. I know from personal experience that all of it doesn't come off the vine or the tree or out of the ground that way. 

So what happens to all the farm produce that doesn't fit store specifications, but is still perfectly ripe and totally delicious? All too often it was left to rot in the field, representing a loss to the farmer of the time, energy and resources it took to grow it.

That's why the Paul and his wife Judy decided to offer a service to local farms called co-packing. The farmer provides the fruit or produce when it's at the peak of its flavor and Sweet Creek provides them with a fully-licensed processing facility so the jam, salsa or pickles can be sold at stores or at the farmers' market. They even provide farmers with help developing a marketing plan to sell the products.

It's a win for the processor, who has an additional revenue stream and helps its farmers succeed and survive. It's a win for farmers who don't lose income from crops going to waste, as well as having value-added products they can sell when their fresh produce is out of season. And I'd argue it's a win for our tables as well.

Watch the first part of the interview, Packing Pickles. Get regular updates on this series about our local food scene by subscribing. This week's recipe: easy bread and butter pickles!

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