Grant funds help with small, sustainable innovations on the farm

Last year, the College of Food and Agricultural Sciences (CFANS) awarded the farm a $500 greening grant in support of our efforts to make our operation more sustainable.  In looking at our day-to-day tasks, we were pleased to find that our activities generate very little waste—we repair and reuse whatever we can, and the vast majority of our waste stream ends up in the compost pile rather than the landfill.  But for years we’ve been relying on awkward, waxy cardboard boxes to harvest and transport our produce.
These boxes are reusable, but only up to a point—they wear heavily in daily use and eventually break down and end up in a landfill.  That got us thinking that a CFANS greening grant could provide the means for a more sustainable choice.

Containers may not be the most thrilling or glamorous pieces of a market farm, but they’re in the background of just about everything we do—especially since we wash and harvest everything by hand.  The three types of plastic bins we decided to invest in are all more durable, functional, and longer-lasting. They have handles for easier harvests, are designed for better stacking in the van or in the cooler, and can better withstand moisture and rough handling.

But as so often happens with efforts to reduce waste, we have also seen financial savings as a result of this change.  Over the past six years, we spent nearly $800 on cardboard boxes; that’s an expense of over a hundred dollars a growing season that we’ll largely be spared in the years to come as a result of this grant.  Last season’s investment of nearly $500 greening grant dollars on 63 plastic containers weaned us completely of our dependence on cardboard, and we expect these bins to last for many years to come. In our little operation, every penny saved translates into more support and opportunity for students, so these savings are not insubstantial.

In all, it is safe to say that this grant has helped make our farm more efficient—not only environmentally, but in terms of labor and finance. It’s subtle cumulative changes like these, not earth-shattering innovations, that add up to real sustainability.

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