Skip to main content


Food Loss at the Farm Level

Dr. Gregory Baker Talks with CBS Affiliate KPIX about Unharvested Produce in California Farms

Greg Baker interview with KPIX


On-farm food loss in northern and central California: Results of field survey measurements

Read the full paper here

Prevailing estimates of food loss at the farm level are sparse and often reliant upon grower surveys. A more comprehensive review of food loss at the farm level using field surveys is required to gain an adequate understanding of the depth of this issue. This paper details the results of 123 in-field surveys and 18 in-depth interviews of 20 different, hand-harvested field crops performed largely on midsize to large conventional farms in northern and central California. We also provide estimates of the percentage of fields that go unharvested, commonly known as walk-by fields. The results show that food loss is highly variable and largely dependent upon the crop, variety, market price, labor costs, grower practices, buyer specifications, and environmental conditions. On average, we found 11,299 kg/ha of food loss at the farm level, which equates to 31.3% of the marketed yield. When walk-by losses are included, this figure rises to 33.7%. Our paper also demonstrates that grower estimates are typically very unreliable for estimating on-farm food losses. Actual, measured edible food loss exceeded growers’ estimates by a median value of 157%. Strategies to utilize this lost produce could play a significant role in reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment and providing food for the rapidly growing population.


Santa Clara University students are tackling the problem of unharvested food going to waste.

Learn more in the slideshow below.

  • No Produce Left Behind 

    In the summer of 2016, students working with the Food and Agribusiness Institute (now CFIE) are quantifying the problem of unharvested, but edible, crops.




Select from the following categories