Farmer: 'I don't grow things to throw them away'

Soybeans and corn grow in a field along Boyd Station Road outside of Riverside on Friday.

Jonas Frankyl, who grows corn, soybeans, and fruits in western Snyder County puts his "heart and soul" into growing food for people.

"I don't grow things to throw them away," Frankyl said. "If everything is eaten, I'm good with that. I hate waste."

Farmers take the responsibility of feeding others seriously and are upset when they hear about food being wasted or see food that is wasted, said Mark O'Neill, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

More than one-third of all foods produced is wasted, according to the federal government. The level of lost food produced on farms is also estimated at about 30 percent, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

In those years when he figures he'll have a food surplus, Frankyl donates to local food banks or churches — in his case, several varieties of fruit that he grows and normally sells in local farmer's markets.

Frankyl said he is constantly looking for inefficiencies on his farm, "so that I don't waste my time, energy and resources."

O'Neill said there is a notion that some farmers overproduce food to guarantee that they can meet quotas for orders made prior to the growing season.

"If this is happening," he said, "I believe it is rare in Pennsylvania, where farmers attempt to use every acre of farmable land to produce food for consumers." 

In some cases, farmers may be growing food specifically to donate to needy people in their communities, O'Neill said. These donations can include a wide variety of products, including fresh fruit, vegetables and even milk.

There are a variety of factors that could lead to food waste on farms with the most common being the lack of adequate seasonal labor on Pennsylvania farms, O'Neill said. Many fruit and vegetable growers don’t have enough workers to bring in the harvest when items like peaches and apples are ready to be picked. Once the apple or peach falls on the ground, it cannot be sold.

Meanwhile, some people may categorize food that is lost due to harsh weather conditions as food waste.

Under that scenario, hailstorms can often devastate crops, especially when the food is close to harvest.

Over the years, O'Neill said, "we’ve heard farmers talk about nightmare scenarios involving hailstorms, including when they have wiped out acres and acres of tomatoes right before they were ready to be picked, causing massive financial losses. Flooding, excessive rainfall, early frost and drought can also wipe out or substantially reduce yields of food produced on farms.

Major snowstorms or other weather hazards may also prohibit milk haulers from arriving to dairy farms in a timely manner.

Since a farmer can only store so much milk on the farm, the delays often force dairy farmers to dump their milk, O'Neill said.

Farmers growing grains like field corn or soybeans have a little more room to work because they can harvest those grains and put them in storage. Farmers then have the option to wait to see if the market will rebound and they can get a better price.

"The reality, however, is that farmers still have to pay their bills," O'Neill said. "So even if the market doesn’t reach the price they are seeking, they may still have to sell. Either way, the food is not wasted."

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