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Community Agriculture Alliance: An innovative way to reduce food waste

Charlie Preston Townsend
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

The numbers are astonishing: 40% of food in the U.S. goes to the landfill. At every step in the food system, valuable, edible, nutritious, delicious produce gets discarded. But there is a group of folks here in Steamboat Springs aiming to capitalize on that waste.

As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” That is certainly true for Mark Berkley at Innovative Regeneration, David Keating at Butcherknife Farm and Colby Townsend with Hayden Fresh Farm. Partnering with the Steamboat Springs City Market to divert the grocery store’s unsellable produce, these producers are hoping to tap into a new food source for their respective operations while helping City Market work toward its zero waste goals.

You may recognize the Hayden Fresh Farm brand. They provide local eggs to a number of restaurants around town as well as to a small number of retail customers. Before becoming full-time chicken farmers Colby and Michelle Townsend, owners of Hayden Fresh Farm, owned Elk River Pet and Ranch. Located south of Hayden with a hungry 1,750 birds, Hayden Fresh Farms is a prime outlet for diverting food waste that is otherwise destined for the landfill.

Speaking of landfill, you may remember the herd of pigs at the turnoff to the landfill outside Milner? The herd of heritage bread Mangalitsa pigs are still in the valley, under new ownership, and helping to reduce the amount of food waste going to the dump. Uniquely adept at turning otherwise unusable foods into high quality protein, Butcherknife Farm’s herd of pigs is a hungry bunch, eager to dine on unsaleable produce.

The Steamboat Springs City Market estimates their produce section throws away an average of 1,500 pounds of produce weekly. Until now, the grocer paid to dispose of this food waste at the landfill. What proves inedible for humans will now help provide the valley with eggs and pork. What’s left will now go to fly larvae.

Innovative Regeneration is using black soldier fly larvae to dispose of the food waste that is not edible. Black soldier fly larvae can eat huge amounts of virtually all types of food waste, turning it into a valuable animal feed with up to 40% protein, 35% fat and 15% ash.

Reclaiming the waste generated from one grocer’s produce section may be just the tip of the iceberg of food waste, and this group believes that together their operations could help divert even more. The goal of eventually capturing most, or all, the food waste created in town will take a collaborative effort, which is why the group is also working with the city, other government and private organizations, businesses and the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council on these shared efforts.

Certainly, reducing food waste in the first place is best however, making sure that what we grow goes to feed a hungry mouth, even if its livestock, is a step in the right direction, and a vast improvement from sending it to landfill.

To learn more and take the food waste survey, visit yvsc.org/waste-diversion.

Charlie Preston Townsend is a volunteer with the Food Waste Task Force.


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