Photos and text by JOANNA DETZ/ecoRI News staff
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — One might think a vegetarian restaurant would have nothing to do with a farmer who raises hogs for meat. But sometimes, unexpected partnerships are forged in the name of waste reduction.
Goldsmith shows off her food scraps.After months of despairing over all the vegetable scraps being thrown in the garbage, Garden Grille’s executive chef, Jordan Goldsmith, decided she had to do something. She reached out to a number compost collectors in an attempt to come up with a cost-effective way to reduce waste at the restaurant. Even though the commercial hauler that could pick up her scraps was going to charge a fee for pickups, she decided it was worth it.
But, three weeks ago, just as Goldsmith was going to sign on with the commercial hauler, Adrian Fulk, owner of Runaway Farms in Westport, Mass., was at the restaurant to drop off a produce delivery, and the two got to talking.
Faulk offered pick up the restaurant’s food scrap, including any left from customers’ unfinished meals, for free; he said he would feed the scraps to his pigs. Now, twice a week, when Fulk drops off a vegetable delivery, he picks up two 35-gallon bins of food scrap from the restaurant and its affiliated bakery and juice bar, Wildflour.
Goldsmith quickly saw a huge reduction in the amount of waste Garden Grille generated. Where the restaurant had been producing eight trash barrels a day, it now produces only four.
“It’s amazing to see how much of actual waste was food scrap,” Goldsmith said.
Fulk, who is now in his third year of farming, currently has five grown hogs and four piglets. Between the nine of them, they eat a 35-gallon barrel of food scrap a day. Having this food scrap has enabled Faulk, whose pigs are pasture-raised in the European-style, to all but eliminate corn and soy from his pigs diet, resulting in a better quality of meat.
And the other big benefit is cost savings. “I’ve cut my feed costs to next to nothing,” Fulk said.
With more piglets on the way, Fulk has also begun picking up food scrap from The Grange in Providence, but said he has the capacity to take scrap from more restaurants.
Goldsmith said she and the staff are happy their food scrap is feeding pigs rather than getting buried in the state landfill. “There are a lot of happy animals resulting from this restaurant,” Goldsmith said with a smile.