Think about in case your week’s provide of greens got here with the mail. This might occur if a brand new market evaluation by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) involves fruition. The evaluation, revealed on February 24, suggests that there is a great alternative for farmers to workforce up with the US Postal Service (USPS) to supply surplus greens to prospects who might want higher entry to contemporary meals.

This initiative, which WWF has named Farmers Submit, continues to be in hypothetical type, however the proposed mannequin sounds strong and convincing. Farmers would be capable of package deal surplus produce in standard-sized containers offered by USPS. These could be picked up and delivered the subsequent day inside present supply zones, no additional than two postal codes away from the farm, making it really native meals. 

Julia Kurnik, director of innovation startups for WWF’s Markets Institute and co-author of the evaluation, stated in a press launch, “Entry to contemporary fruit and veggies shouldn’t be thought of a luxurious, however throughout the US, meals deserts and higher-cost supply companies routinely put these important meals out of attain. Pairing this actuality with the in depth lack of viable meals on our nation’s farms, Farmers Submit affords a win-win answer to fight on-farm meals loss, whereas making produce supply extra inexpensive and accessible.”

Prospects, a lot of whom have began utilizing grocery supply companies prior to now 12 months, might get contemporary produce delivered for lower than what they’re at present paying. It’s because the USPS route already exists, has a broad attain throughout all demographics and rural/city areas, and the price of produce could be aggressive, because it’s direct-to-consumer and free from provide markups incurred by retailers or processors. As a substitute of the CSA (community-supported agriculture) mannequin, which requires full cost at the beginning of the 12 months, this may very well be a extra inexpensive week-by-week cost.

The evaluation says, “The USPS already supplies customary containers without spending a dime to companies, so the one added delivery value farmers may have to include on high of supply is more likely to be padding or different packaging based mostly on the fragility of the produce.” As a result of its supply fleet doesn’t embrace refrigerated vehicles, the collection of meals merchandise would not be as broad as an everyday grocery supply service, however there’s nonetheless a lot that may very well be distributed inside a 24-hour window.

Utilizing USPS would enhance accessibility for these individuals who have restricted mobility, don’t personal vehicles to do CSA pickups at a central location, or stay in a rural location that doesn’t have entry to the ugly/surplus produce companies which can be rising quickly in city areas. These different meals suppliers are sometimes identified solely to environmentally-minded consumers, however USPS’s usually constructive repute (the evaluation says it is “considered favorably” by 91% of the inhabitants, based on Pew Analysis) may very well be a bridge to accessing a brand new clientele that would turn into fairly captivated with shopping for native produce.

Farmers may gain advantage by diversifying their revenue streams – one thing that is turn into extra noticeably vital after a troublesome pandemic 12 months that noticed markets for eating places, colleges, and different establishments shrivel in a single day. It is a means for them to turn into CSA farmers of a kind, minus the added burden of orchestrating the CSA set-up themselves. There are numerous particulars which have but to be labored out, reminiscent of whether or not folks would subscribe or be capable of select what they obtain, however these are all manageable particulars. 

Getty Photographs/mcdomx

As for the environmental implications of including vegetable deliveries to the mail, WWF’s evaluation says it is an enchancment over folks making a number of journeys to the shop on their very own. 

“Greenhouse fuel emissions from journeys to the shop for grocery buying are usually assessed through automobile miles traveled (VMT). By profiting from pre-established routes and thereby decreasing transportation prices with fewer journeys to the grocery retailer, in addition to decreased distribution prices for farmers, Farmers Submit might scale back VMTs. Environmental impacts are probably additional improved by means of decreased on-farm crop loss by enabling a brand new outlet for farmers to promote product that will have been destined for eating places or meals service. Additional research is required to totally perceive environmental impacts, however the alternative is promising.”

Such an initiative might assist USPS, too, because it has been going through extreme funding challenges. The evaluation means that if 2-3% of the American inhabitants began utilizing Farmers Submit, it could create $1.5 billion in annual income for USPS alone (farmer income could be further to that). “With a ten% market penetration, annual revenues might soar to almost $6B.” Whereas Farmers Submit is not sufficient to repair the whole funding shortfall, it provides USPS an attention-grabbing alternative to diversify its revenue streams, as effectively. 

Kurnik instructed Treehugger that USPS has been made conscious of this enterprise case. “[It] offered background data that helped WWF’s Markets Institute develop our evaluation however USPS just isn’t formally concerned within the challenge presently.” 

It is a captivating concept that may very well be an actual game-changer for farmers, dwelling cooks, and postal staff alike, in addition to within the international combat towards meals waste.

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