All produce is not created equal.
When visiting a grocery store, consumers will find fruits and vegetables that are uniform in size, color and shape. However, anyone who has spent time working on a farm or growing a vegetable garden at home knows perfectly delicious carrots are not always straight and lettuce leaves do not all grow to the same size. So what happens to the produce that is still just as tasty, but perhaps not as readily primed for grocers’ produce shelves? More often than not, it is discarded.
For many years, Evolution Fresh purchased this “uniform” produce, delivered pre-washed and stored in plastic bags. Brian Jameson, vice president of Agriculture Operations and Business Development for Evolution Fresh, looked at the amount of plastic waste, water used to clean the produce and resources to transport it to the company’s juicery in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He wanted to develop a system that would help reduce the environmental impact on the land and better align with Evolution Fresh values.
“I knew that we had to make a change,” Jameson said. “If you can incorporate sustainability in the economic model of your business, you can achieve a massive change in your business.”
Collaborating with his Evolution Fresh colleagues and a produce supplier in Southern California, Jameson began a pilot program to source spinach in a manner that helps to reduce waste and benefits farmers and the environment.
Utilizing Second-Crop Produce
Second-cut produce, which comes from a farmer’s second crop, can grow with cosmetic imperfections such as leaves that are too long or have nicks and cuts. Although the quality and taste are the same, the appearance is different.
In 2014, Evolution Fresh began purchasing second-cut spinach from Western Harvesting, LLC. Because Evolution Fresh uses the spinach for juice, the size or shape of the vegetable leaves isn't critical.
“We’re only one of a handful of juice companies using second-cut produce,” said Jameson. “It’s a great way to augment a farmer’s business.”
“Growing a second crop just makes sense. It’s a win-win situation,” said Tim McAfee, founder, Western Harvesting, LLC. “This is the future of farming.”
Farmers spend a great deal of money to harvest a first crop. A second crop can yield twice the amount as the first, takes less than half the time to grow and requires fewer resources.
“The real magic in harvesting a first and second crop is from a cost perspective,” said Jameson. “Farmers can harvest up to three times the amount of pounds off of each acre, which can increase their revenue.”
This approach to sourcing spinach has inspired Evolution Fresh to utilize second-cut parsley and kale, as well. The company is now committed to developing other innovative solutions for sourcing its produce.