Composting at Bucknell University

By John Cummins, General Manager of Resident Dining at Bucknell University

Like most college and universities our summer guests are mostly participants in camps and conferences hosted by the institution.  Some meals we serve 700 guests and others just 30!

No matter how many guests we have we always focus on utilizing the freshest local fruits and vegetables we can.  This time of year we are typically blessed with a plentiful supply of both. This summer, however, the growing season started late here in Central Pennsylvania due to lots of rain in April and May.

Fresh Local Peaches

Now the first few harvests have come in and the fields here in the Susquehanna Valley are filling up again. Yesterday we offered our guests (and sampled ourselves) some of the best locally produced peaches I have ever had!  They are succulent and flavorful and I noted, as I ate one, that they have a particularly thick and furry skin.  I wondered if it means a hard winter is coming(?)

As well as serving a great assortment of fresh local fruit and produce, our summers here in Lewisburg are a time to put new programs in place.  One such program we are very invested in and proud of is our new Composting Initiative.

Jaime Moore, Parkhurst’s Director of Sourcing and Sustainability, has helped a good number of our accounts begin composting programs.  Many accounts both in Parkhurst and Cura are already composting and it is a great way to utilize post-consumer waste and to build relationships in our communities.

Here at Bucknell we have worked diligently at (creating) such a program.  This process begins in our dishroom.  We are fortunate enough to be at a University with the foresight to have installed a device called a ‘pulper.  All of the plate scraps (except bones) and napkins off of our guest’s trays goes through a garbage disposal and then through the pulper which extrudes the water and expels a ground up mixture that is the perfect mulching protein matter.  It looks like this:

Compost after being run through the 'pulper'

Rob Rowse, our farmer partner in the Composting Program took the first load of 220 lbs of compost (and 20 gallons of coffee grounds) to his farm.  Rob’s business, Rowse Howse Farms, had to apply for and be awarded a permit to be a Vermicompost site (from the Pa. Dept of Agriculture) in order to begin the project.  This means Rob is feeding our tray waste to worms that then turn it in to a great fertilizer. Rob’s farm is a sustainable pig and chicken farm and the compost will act as a fertilizer on the crops he grows for his livestock.

Farmer Rob Rowse collecting the first 220 lbs. of compost

During the semester Bucknell’s Resident Dining program has been producing 850 lbs of post consumer compostable waste daily.  Rob is prepared to take as much of that as he can.  Since our first trip in June, we have supplied about 2300 lbs of waste to Rob.  We are still working out all the details, so it is  still a work in progress.

As I said earlier, we are very excited about this initiative and about keeping this compostable material out of the local landfill.

I hope you all have a great rest of the summer and of course you can compost at home, too! Check out the this site for more information to begin composting.

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