How one vegetable farmer is fighting food waste and feeding those in need

Gary Pahl is a farmer who donates produce to his local food pantry
April 1, 2019
by Gary Pahl

My name is Gary Pahl and I’m a fifth-generation vegetable farmer in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Along with my brother Brian and my wife Jane, our family has been in vegetable farming for over 100 years. And we’re hoping that legacy continues into a sixth generation as my son Jack is taking on more tasks and responsibilities every day.

We’ve been part of the Minnesota farming community for a long time. We’re proud of our legacy here. We’re proud of the  vegetables we sell. But our legacy is more than that. The Pahl family legacy is also about giving back to our neighbors. That’s why we’re helping feed families facing hunger by donating excess fresh produce through the Feeding America network.
When we grow more than we can sell or pick produce that is considered “ugly,” we donate it. Cucumbers and cabbage that are too big or too small? We donate them. Slightly misshapen peppers? We donate them. In fact, since 2011 we’ve donated more than 6.3 million pounds of produce that otherwise would have gone to waste.
I’ll never forget the first truck we loaded up with fresh produce to donate. We had a bunch of extra sweet corn because of a heat wave that caused it to ripen sooner than we expected. When we were loading it, one of our employees asked me where the corn was going. I told him it was going to the food pantry. He literally stopped in his tracks. He took the moment in and then went to tell his colleagues. Everyone lit up like a Christmas tree knowing they were going to make many families experiencing hunger happy and full.

Tractor at farm
Since 2011, Pahl Farms has donated more than six million pounds of food through the Feeding America network.

It brought great joy and pride to all of us knowing that we were going to provide meals for so many families in our community.

From that day on, our relationship with Feeding America has been a special one. And to this day it’s amazing knowing we’re providing fresh vegetables to so many people. Our employees know every time they send a truck to the food bank, it’s going to feed someone in need. Many of them have been in that spot – where they’ve needed a little help - and they know what it means to get a decent meal. We take pride knowing the hard work we do is not going to waste and will provide meals to men, women and children all over the United States.

In farming, because of the weather, it’s hard to predict how much you’ll grow and when it’ll be ready to pick. In years past there were times when we’d grown too much but couldn’t sell it and the only option was leaving it in the field. With the Feeding America network of food banks, the produce that would have gone to waste is put into the hands of people that need it. And that’s a legacy I’m extremely proud of.

Now that you've read about one way Feeding America is fighting food waste, test your knowledge with our quiz, Waste it or Taste It and challenge your friends to do the same.