Sarah Hulick is helping farmers to rescue food waste.

Agriculture is imprinted in Sarah Hulick’s heart.  She is a 4th generation farmer who grew up on a small farm in upstate New York. When she was young, she helped her family raise a variety of livestock including beef cows, goats, chicken, and pigs. Her family still grows about 40 acres of hay­. In addition to helping on the farm, Sarah was also actively involved in the local community 4-H and FFA programs. So, when it was time for Sarah to head to college, pursuing a career in agriculture only seemed apropos.  Sarah has a master’s degree in plant biology from Cornell University.

Sarah Hulick  Photo by Full Harvest.Sarah Hulick Photo by Full Harvest.

Following college, she moved to California where she worked as an extension specialist Driscoll berries and research scientist for Dole Fresh Vegetables. As an agricultural research scientist, she helped these companies find new ways to produce food safely and efficiently. She enjoyed doing research but after 6 years, she wanted to try her hand in the agriculture technology space.

Sarah joined Full Harvest as the Grower Innovation Specialist.  She works with farmers in California to help identify their food loss stream and assists in finding innovative ways to use what would have been discarded produce. Simply put, Sarah helps farmers to identify and rescue food waste.  Items such as discarded romaine lettuce leaves, broccoli cores or celery tops are all cut off in the field at the time of harvest. Rather than leave these items in the field to rot, she has helped growers find a use for these “new” commodities (SKU’s) which are sold for juices, purees, and powders.

Sarah working with a grower.    Photo by Full HarvestSarah working with a grower. Photo by Full Harvest

Food loss on farms accounts for about 16% of our total food waste in the United States.  This is equivalent to about 20 billion pounds of food. We refer to this as food loss because farmers do not intentionally grow food to have it thrown away. Food loss occurs because imperfect produce does not meet customers aesthetic requirements even though it is perfectly edible and tasty. As consumers, we have been conditioned to shop with our eyes. Much of the food loss on farms ends up being left in fields to rot or be dumped in a landfill. The impact of this is more than just food loss. It is also a loss of valuable resources such as water, fertilizer, fuel, labor, and time. Food waste also wreaks havoc on the environment by creating methane emissions, a leading contributor to climate change

Discarded zuchini and yellow squash.  Photo by AP/Lynne SladlyDiscarded zuchini and yellow squash. Photo by AP/Lynne Sladly

Full Harvest is a B2B marketplace bringing food and beverage customers and farmers together to source both surplus and imperfect produce. They are a young evolving company that is using an ecommerce platform of connecting the buyer and farmers through the computer.  Full Harvest is helping to change the way our industry buys and sells produce.

Full Harvest’s customers are predominantly large juice retailers and manufacturers who can accept imperfect and ugly produce at a lower price point. This creates a win-win situation for both buyers and farmers. Full Harvest provides cheaper prices to buyers who can make their products more affordable, which could lead to increased sales and overall profits. Farmers benefit because it brings some additional revenue to them on produce that would have otherwise been discarded.  To date, Full Harvest has sold over 25 million lbs. of produce  

Rescued salad savoy cores.   Photo by Full HarvestRescued salad savoy cores. Photo by Full Harvest
Rescued broccoli leaf.  Photo by Full HarvestRescued broccoli leaf. Photo by Full Harvest
Rescued celery stems.    Photo by Full HarvestRescued celery stems. Photo by Full Harvest
Rescued broccoli stems.  Photo by Full Harvest.Rescued broccoli stems. Photo by Full Harvest.

Food loss during the Covid -19 pandemic has been substantial with the food service industry being severely impacted. Many farmers were left with large surpluses of vegetables originally intended and grown for restaurants, hotels, and schools.  Sarah and the Full Harvest team have been working closely with these farmers to assist in helping to find buyers for this excess produce.  Farmers already are working on tight margins so any kind of incremental revenue can bring some value back to the farm.

Full Harvest is fully committed to making a difference regarding food waste outside of their office. Their employees made a personal pledge to reduce food waste in their daily lives. Sarah pledged to plan her meals before shopping, so she does not over buy.  She is also composting any leftover produce into her worm bins which she uses in her garden.

Food loss and food waste is a worldwide problem. Sarah wants to encourage all of us to try to reduce this by accepting those ugly but edible fruits and vegetables.  This not only benefits the farmer since he will yield more in production but will produce less waste which will benefit our environment.