Zero Food Waste Farm?

Zero Food Waste Farm?
Before even starting the farm, we were sensitive to the amount of food that is wasted and wanted our farm to experiment with new ideas.  Dave had facilitated the University of Guelph's 'Building a Research Agenda for Food Waste in Ontario' and the Food Systems Lab exploration into food waste in the GTA.  Numbers vary, but it's not disputed that a LOT of food is wasted from farm to fork, as much as 170kg per Canadian each year.  When starting our farm, we asked ourselves what we could do to reduce this, specifically the amount of food going to landfill.

The first idea was that we would only sell whole animals and keep as many of the off-cuts as possible.  This reduces less desirable cuts from going to waste and encourages us to use all parts of an animal...such as using the bones for stocks.  This idea didn't entirely work, as we learned that not everyone wants, or knows what to do with, a whole chicken and so in 2018 we started selling parts.  We still keep all of the parts, including the backs, feet, livers & hearts and we're appreciative of the number of people wanting just these parts.  While the idea itself changed, the goal of little waste from our animals is still being achieved.

Next idea was that the 'waste' from whatever we grow on the farm has to be able to be used as an 'input' into something else.  Since we don't grow any vegetables (yet?), to give our animals some variety in their diets we get unsold veggies from our market friends, spent grains from local breweries and even Hallowe'en pumpkins.  The sawdust we use to grow mushrooms eventually gets spread into the forest where the pigs have been foraging.  Manure from the poultry is composted and spread over the pastures.  The goal is close the loop so that we have healthy soil, forests, pastures and animals.

Lastly, fresh mushrooms have a very short shelf life and we bought a dehydrator so that anything that we don't sell at market, we can dry and bag.  Dried mushrooms have a much longer shelf life and are perfect for soups and gravies.  Emily has been perfecting her use of them and we have two recipes to share:
  1. Mushroom & Vegetable Soup:  we served this at our Open Farm last year and it was a huge hit
  2. Mmmmmmmushroom Gravy:  so easy to make and so delicious!
By no means are we perfect after just two years, but what we've learned is that reducing wasted food is a mindset that starts with a question:  "What's the next best use for this?"