Green garlic pickles, an early experiment for the Gleaning Project.

For farmers all over the country, growing more than they can sell is just a part of doing business. As is routinely tilling surplus produce back into the soil. And because space is limited and time is of the essence, most farmers don’t have many other options — even if it usually means thousands of pounds of uneaten food.

“Nothing is lost when you turn something under; it just goes back into the dirt,” says Andy Griffin, owner of Watsonville, Calif.-based Mariquita Farm. “For us, loss comes when we’ve spent money to pick something, wash it, pack it, refrigerate it, and put it in a box, then [have to] take it out of the box and throw it away.” Of course, one could argue that the water and fertilizer required to grow the food — as well as the labor — is indeed lost, even if these are standard costs to farmers.