It’s famously said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and while that may be true, you can at least get some of the ingredients without laying down a penny. We check out a new website that claims to offer free produce, straight from the farmer to you. Swag!

Although farmers work hard to produce their crops, did you know that they have to throw some of it away before it ever gets to market? Before they ship out their goods, they have to check if they conform to standards for size, color and shape. If they don’t, they can’t be shipped.

There’s nothing wrong with this produce in terms of taste, and some of them do get used in processed foods or are eaten by the farmer, but much if it simply ends up being thrown out. It’s really quite wasteful, but now a website is hoping to do something about it. It’s called Tada Yasai, or “free vegetables” in Japanese.

According to the manager of the site, Eiji Takahashi, these irregular vegetables tend to make up about 10 percent of a crop, but can reach up to about half! By making a free gift of this irregular produce through the Internet, he hopes to support the livelihood of farming families, who can also sell directly to consumers through the site.

As the numbers of farmers continue to decline, Takahashi said he wanted to create a site that would help them with PR and communications. By using this free produce offer as a promotion, the number of members has increased to 110,000 and the site is getting an average of 3,000-5,000 visitors a day.

The site announces the free vegetables available each Monday and gets about 3,000 applications. From those, 10 recipients are chosen, who then just have to pay a small shipping free to have the ample produce delivered fresh to their door.

“To use a past example,” says Takahashi, “one time we offered a kilo of leeks. That’s about 10, or enough for four families, so we suggested that the winners share with their neighbors.”

So how does the site make money? The farmers pay a small fee to list their produce on the site.

“The site functions as a kind of matchmaker between producers and customers,” says Takahashi. “Producers display their goods on the site, but it’s not a shop exactly, more like a promotional site. It’s a way of getting the purchaser’s information (address, telephone and email) to the farmer, so that next time they don’t have to use our site, but can deal with each other directly.”

Although the first thing you see upon visiting the site is “free vegetables”, the main purpose is actually to facilitate this direct connection between producers and purchasers, benefiting both. For example, a box of mandarin oranges from Ehime would retail at 2,480 yen, but buying direct from the producer, you can get it for 1,760.

Taking advantage of the free vegetables offer could be just the beginning of a whole new way of buying your produce!

Apologies to our friends overseas, but this offer is only available in Japan at the moment, but perhaps there is a similar site near you.

Source: Yahoo! Japan
Title image: Zoran Veselinovic