Customising Veggie Boxes and Tackling Food Waste

seeds at Heritage Farm

As farmers, we love veggie boxes. They mean security that isn’t washed out with a farmers market, they mean we know roughly how many rows of each crop to plant, and they mean that we know EXACTLY what to harvest.

In short, they mean that while 7.3 million tonnes of food are wasted on Australian farms, there is very little food waste on ours. Now, very little doesn’t mean none. We still have bird damaged apples, and potatoes we accidentally stab with a fork. We have radishes split or bolt to seed. And we usually have a conversation about each one: do we put these not quite right items in your veggie boxes, or do we feed them to the chooks? I often go for the compromise position, and bring 12kg of bug bitten tomatoes into our house. On a good week, they end up as home grown and made pasata, saved for winter. On a bad week, they get carried out again to the chooks, significantly more mushy, and the floor gets scrubbed thoroughly!

Either way, we are pretty confident that in terms of food waste on the farm, we are doing the best we can. Almost all of our produce goes to customers or is donated, most not quite right bits and pieces are eaten by us, or pressed on family and friends. And the little that’s left finds a home in our chickens bellies, in our compost piles, or worm farms, and cycles back to grow the next lot of veggies.

But we know that food waste on farms is only part of the picture. Food waste in the home is also a huge issue. According to FoodWise Australians discard up to 20% of all the food they purchase. I’m hoping that most of our families are ahead of that curve, and I’m hoping even more that when they say ‘throw-out’ they mean compost! But I’m also really aware that eating out of a veggie box can be as annoying as it can be an adventure.

And that if we want to seriously tackle food waste in our food system, what happens on farm is only one half of the picture. In addition, we want to encourage all of you to be growing bits and pieces yourself. And there’s nothing worse that having 3 beautifully producing zucchini bushes in your backyard, and someone giving you three more zucchinis!

So we’re trialling some (limited!) box customisation. If you picked up your veggie box pre COVID, you might remember our swap box, sitting on the table, where you could mix and match until you had produce that you knew you would eat that week. For the last two weeks we have trialled sending out a similar mixed veg box in the van. Now obviously, we aren’t going to bring this box to your door and let you rummage around in it, the way we could do on farm. But Fran, Linda and Petie, who each do one delivery shift per week will be able to make substitutions on your behalf.

We’re still working out the glitches in the system, so I can’t 100% promise it will work every time. And so we don’t get absolutely overwhelmed, at this stage we’re not operating it on a ‘weekly update’ system. However, if there is a vegetable (or 2) that you know your family never gets through (I’m looking at you cabbage), or you have a lemon tree, or leafy greens in your yard, shoot me an email, and I’ll put it in your permanent customer notes. The reminder will pop up in the van whenever we arrive at your house, and we’ll make a switch for you. Most likely, you’ll get twice as much of something else in the box that week. Possibly, you’ll get something else entirely 🙂 It’s a bit of a gamble, but one that we hope will help you reduce food waste in your own home, and encourage you to grow what bits you can, while eating from a veggie box.

If you don’t dislike a veggie, but you are stuck for ideas what to cook with it, please get in touch, either by email, or post on our facebook group where you have 99 other families who have received the exact same box as you, who either are asking themselves the same question, or have just answered it!

Finally, if your food scraps ARE heading to landfill, I’d love to take this opportunity to encourage you to compost. Whether that’s in your own home, by finding a nearby heap on Share Waste, or by bringing your scraps to the farm- get those bad boys bringing life back to our soil, not producing methane in a rubbish tip.

3 thoughts on “Customising Veggie Boxes and Tackling Food Waste

  1. jennifer gassin says:

    Hi Rach!
    Loving your
    veggie box and eggs every fortnight. Makes me cook around whats in it, so is quite a learning experience for me as well. Great opportunity to say my vegetarian garden is full of silverbeet at the moment, so you could substitute that out for us!
    Hope all is well.
    Jenny Gassin

  2. Rachael Koch says:

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying it Jenny 🙂 I’ll put you down as no silverbeet til further notice – so let me know if the garden starts growing something else instead.

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