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Surplus Produce Defined

The definition we use for surplus produce, and our criteria for purchasing, is that the produce is of "marketable quality with no other purchase outlet." The produce that Farms for Life purchases and distributes is of Farmer's Market quality, whereas gleaned produce is better described as "second-rate" quality (on par with "ugly" foods). 

Surplus celery at Skylight Farms in Snohomish being harvested for delivery to Farms for Life

Farms for Life provides farmers with another option for selling excess "marketable" produce, which makes it more likely the produce will not go to waste.


On the ground, each farm and farmer has a business model that they have developed based on their community needs, desires, and business knowledge, which could include selling at farmers markets, through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), to restaurants, etc. Each farm-business is unique, though in many cases similar.


Yet universally, farmers will try, and need, to get the most money for their product as possible (as they have a very small margin of profit), which is why farmers want to sell as much produce as possible and for full retail value.

When there is no one to make a purchase, as so often happens (up to 40% of food grown in the fields never makes it to the table), the produce will often go to waste and never be eaten. It will then get composted or tilled back into the soil. This is what Farms for Life founder and farmer Claire Thomas saw happening and from which Farms for Life's mission was born. 

Because farmers must plant overages to account for potential losses due to weather, pests, diseases, etc., there is a percentage of produce/product that they have grown for which there is no purchaser. Farming has many variables and the product is so highly perishable that they are in a constant state of "flex." When there is no one to make a purchase, as so often happens (up to 40% of food grown in the fields never makes it to the table), the produce will often go to waste and never be eaten. It will then get composted or tilled back into the soil. This is what Farms for Life founder and farmer Claire Thomas saw happening and from which Farms for Life's mission was born.


The purchase of this produce (which we call surplus) benefits the farmer because they

make money on food they have already grown. While we don't pay full retail value (closer to

80%) for the produce we buy, it is still worth it for the farmer to harvest the produce and

go through the work of cleaning it, bundling it, and transporting it.


Part of what makes it beneficial to our partner farmers is their shared desire to get nutritious food to people in the community - such as those we serve - who might otherwise not have access. Here's a video of Petrina Fisher from Skylight Farms explaining why she values her partnership with Farms for Life.

For more information on Farms for Life, what we do and how to get involved, check out our website at www.FarmsForLife.org!

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P.O. Box 1034 Woodinville, WA 98072
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e are a registered 501(c)3 organization.