A Student of Life…

I gained many great ideas at Dartmouth College, but an intrinsic love of learning provided the most precious lesson. Although I traded Hanover, NH for the plains of Nebraska almost 18 years ago, the desire to always build knowledge remains a steadfast component in my life journey. My favorite farmer smiles and rolls his eyes a bit when a new topic catapults me into research mode, but after 22 years with me he appreciates that it is one of the things that makes me “Anne”.

My journey studying food waste ultimately originated in volunteer work that I do relative to animal (bovine) welfare. Welfare provides an important component to sustainability both from a social perspective as well as an environmental perspective. I feel that one of my greatest environmental victories as a farmer comes from improving the feed conversion of my cattle – reducing the pounds of feed resources required to make a pound of beef. There are a myriad of factors that go into this improvement, but quality animal welfare (as determined by the unique needs of the bovine) rises quickly to the top.


The bridge from welfare to sustainability ultimately led me to begin studying the topic of food waste. Prior to this, I had no idea how much food ended up in landfills making it a critical component to sustainability.  Last Thursday I shared with all of you a list of things that I do both on farm and in my kitchen to work to limit waste, today I share a few of the headline statistics that inspired me to devote more energy to the topic.  Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council compiled these findings as well as providing initial suggestions for areas of improvement relative to food waste from farm to fork.

One of my favorites -- smoked beef brisket...

One of my favorites — smoked beef brisket…

Getting food from farm to fork uses:

10% of the total U.S. energy budget

50% of U.S. land

80% of all freshwater consumed in the United States

Despite this valuable use of resources, 40% of food in the United States goes uneaten costing Americans over $160 billion dollars each year.

The majority of the uneaten food ends up in landfills and provides the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste — Thereby becoming a significant source (EPA estimate of 23% in 2010) of methane emissions.

Reducing food losses by 15% would provide enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans per year.


Perhaps it is because I see everyday on my farm how many resources go into growing food, or perhaps it is simply because I want to preserve the natural beauty that surrounds me; but as I look at the above statements I am motivated to work for positive change.

I hope that you will stick with me on this journey and continue to offer your own suggestions for improvement.




Filed under General, Sustainable Spring

6 responses to “A Student of Life…

  1. Dawn

    I absolutely hate throwing food away! All veggie and fruit scraps go to the chickens. Carbs like potatoes, rice, breads, pasta, corn cobs, etc. go to the pigs, when we are raising them. Coffee grounds, tea bags, potato peels, egg shells and anything else that will compost all go to the compost pile.
    We also eat, or freeze in single servings, leftovers. Now that my three boys are grown and gone I am trying to downsize cooking portions. It is a struggle, but I am working on it.

    • We haven’t entered the time in our lives where we are downsizing yet, since all three of my girls are in their “eating prime” and involved in athletics; but I remember my mom having to revamp what she cooked after my brother and I went to college 🙂

      You do an awesome job of managing your waste, Dawn. I am impressed. Matt was researching composting yesterday — we may head down that road too. I love my chickens as they do a great job recycling! I blanched and froze tomatoes from my garden last summer and it has been wonderful having them through the winter. The girls helped me to put up the sweet corn 🙂

      Good to hear from you. Keep up the great work!

  2. On the other side, you should research the average weight gain for Americans. We are a bit fat. I feel it is because we teach our children to clean their plates, which translates to excess when they are adults. My question to you. Is sustainability more important than individual health?

    This is the age of the Big Gulp. Additionally, could eating too much also be a factor?

    Please remove your family as a standard in any discussion. You stated that your girls eat what they take, and I think you manage this well as a mom. However, most families are not like your family in regards to eating and nutrition. Many families eat on the go.

    • Bill,

      To me, eating and handling your food is a personal responsibility. It is all a question of what your priorities are and whether or not you believe in fitness and good health. Part of learning how to be healthy is learning how to cook and portion your food. I think that teaching kids to clean their plates is a critical lesson — just as important as teaching kids to only take what they need on the plate in the first place! Kids that eat good meals are less likely to snack on unhealthy food, and are more likely to be active. I am a believer in teaching kids to both eat and cook responsibly. As you know, I am also a believer in fitness. It all goes hand in hand.

      There are nights (like last night) when we sit down to dinner at 8:30pm. We eat late because the girls have sports activities, but we eat real food together as a family because Matt and I value that. I am not a “purest” — we do eat fast food sometimes, but the majority our dinners are home cooked because that is a priority that we have as a family.

      I believe the cure for obesity lies in learning how to respect food as well as exercise. I also think that a diet full of carbohydrates is a poor choice — we eat a lot of meat and vegetables at our house 🙂


      • Nancy Bath

        I enjoyed this part of the discussion. A serving size is not typically what a restaurant serves. We have lost site of the 1/2 cup serving size. Another part of the equation is pet food. It is a huge part of food production. Now we have organic all natural dog foods that take a lot of resources. Many of the pets eat better than people.

  3. Pingback: Monkey In the Middle… | Feed Yard Foodie

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