Transylvania County symposium explores creative solutions for food waste

FROM TRASH TO TREATS: Food prep scraps collected from local commercial kitchens provide a healthy meal for pigs at Rooster Head Plantation. Transvlvania County group Moving to Conservers is working to connect local food waste producers with businesses and organizations that can put the scraps to good use. Photo courtesy of Jacqui Edens

After an unusually wet winter, Jacqui and Jaye Edens of Rooster Head Plantation in Hendersonville took advantage of an unexpectedly sunny Saturday afternoon in a uniquely rustic way. “People think of rolling hills when we say we have a farm, but lately, we’ve had just tons of mud,” says Jacqui, explaining why the couple used that brief, recent break in the rainy weather to move their piglets to drier areas of their 8-acre family farm.

Wet winters also typically mean that farmers such as the Edens must rely on supplementing their pigs’ diets with purchased hay, since grass and other foraged food sources, like mushrooms and acorns, become a less reliable resource. This year, however, a partnership with locally owned restaurants in their area that allows them to collect food-preparation scraps has helped the Edenses cut their feed bill by about 25 percent.

The savings, says Jacqui, has been a huge help for the business. And it’s a direct result of the farm’s involvement with Moving to Conservers, a grassroots Transylvania County group that hosts gatherings aimed at building community connections, creating a greener environment and strengthening the local economy. The group got  its start in 2017, just after founders Kim Coram and John Wiseman moved to the Brevard area from West Virginia, where Coram served as a city council member.

Despite efforts against fracking in that area, she explains, the unfolding environmental devastation in her community became more than she could bear. “We watched our home get decimated in order to produce material for single-use plastic,” says Coram. “The day my term ended, we moved down here.”

Seeking ways to get involved with their new community, the two began hosting potlucks and conversing with others who share a desire to reduce waste. “What I learned [from time in elected office] was that nine people who really studied, had community conversations and took action could have a huge impact,” she says. “If you can just sit down with people, have dinner and talk, that goes a long way.”

Thursday-Saturday, March 28-30, Moving to Conservers will host its largest event  yet, the inaugural Use Food Scraps Symposium, which it’s coordinating with help from Just Ripe Farms, Oskar Blues Brewery, Transylvania County Solid Waste Department and the Hunger Coalition of Transylvania County. Coram describes the symposium, which has the ultimate goal of diverting food scraps from landfills, as a way to unite waste producers (citizens, restaurants, commercial kitchens) with users (community gardens, farms and more) through study, conversation and local action.

“It’s amazing how community-building and intimate becoming a zero-waste community is,” says Coram, describing friendships that have developed through other MTC events.  “The symposium is giving us a platform to be more visible at a different level.”

Described on event flyers as a “series of community gatherings of study, conversation and local action,” the conference kicks off Thursday, March 28, with a zero-waste potluck supper at the Transylvania County Elections Board in Brevard. The evening will feature the announcement of the winners of the Transylvania County Solid Waste Department’s recent food scraps-themed essay contest.

Friday, March 29, the action moves to Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard, where a brew made from bread scraps has been created especially for the symposium. From 5-7 p.m., the brewery will host the Use Food Scraps Community Fair, which will feature vendors of vermicomposting supplies and other items, and information booths and exhibits by local farms and the landfill manager.

The fair will also have a community-connection component. “We will be cataloging folks looking for food scraps and connecting them with folks who have them,” says Coram. The activities will be followed by a screening of the Anthony Bourdain film Wasted! The Story of Food Waste.

Identifying zero-waste business opportunities in the local economy and supporting budding entrepreneurs in that sector is the focus of the symposium’s Entrepreneur Support Labs at Just Ripe Farm in Brevard on Saturday, March 30. “There are a lot of very wealthy people in our group who want to help people like this. What we try to do is educate and invest in what’s here” says Coram.

Workshops on fermentation, compost and biochar will also be part of Saturday’s roster of events, along with live music from Sally and Mark Wingate and friends and a zero-waste potluck meal. Additionally, the Pisgah Collective, an outdoors-focused early childhood education group, will facilitate a community art project inviting folks to paint squares or triangles that will be fashioned into a large quilt-style painting to hang at Just Ripe Farm.

No preregistration is required for any of the symposium events. See UseFoodScraps.com for details.

WHAT: Use Food Scraps Symposium Zero-Waste Potluck
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 28
WHERE: Transylvania County Elections Board, 150 S. Gaston St., Brevard

WHAT: Use Food Scraps Symposium Community Fair
WHEN: 5-7 p.m. Friday, March 29, followed by a screening of the movie Wasted! at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Oskar Blues Brewery, 342 Mountain Industrial Drive, Brevard

WHAT: Use Food Scraps Symposium Education and Entrepreneur Support Labs, community art project and more
WHEN: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, March 30,
WHERE: Just Ripe Farm, 1200 Old Hendersonville Highway, Brevard

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