As part of my real job, I’ve spent the last two days providing a training for nutrition educators who came in to Columbia from across the state. Initially we were going to have the training on campus, but with increased interest in the training the room we had booked eventually became too small.
We ended up booking the meeting center at Bradford Research and Extension Center instead, and wow, I am so glad we did. What an amazing place!
Bradford is a research farm owned by the university, so I expected research fields of corn and soybeans. And they do have that, but they have so much more!
What really impressed me when we first visited was the huge plot where they were growing vegetables. And not just for field trials – but to eat! They’ve recently connected with Campus Dining, and are now growing vegetables to be used specifically in the university’s dining halls. This makes so much sense!
Bradford also noticed that Campus Dining generates a lot of food waste. Like, a LOT of waste. Unfortunately food waste is a normal part of food service-type businesses. Bradford realized they could capture the waste and turn it into something useful. They’re now collecting the food waste, mixing it with horse manure and sawdust from the university’s horse farm to get the ideal carbon/nitrogen composting ratio, and creating fertilizer. The fertilizer is used to grow more vegetables.
And it doesn’t stop there. Campus Dining also generates a lot of waste vegetable oil. Bradford is capturing the oil from the waste stream, and is going to turn it into biodiesel. The biodiesel will be used to fuel the trucks that transport the vegetables to campus, and the waste back to the farm. It’s a closed loop system.
I get really excited about this type of stuff. This is the type of stuff that makes so much stupid sense it’s hard to believe our food system was ever built the way it was. How did we get so far removed from local foods?
Tim from Bradford even gave us an awesome wagon ride tour and showed us different parts of the farm related to vegetable production. They have a ton of cool stuff going on.
Keep an eye out for their Tomato Festival coming up on September 9. Amazingly, it is free to the public! I will definitely be putting it on my calendar. It looks like they haven’t posted details about this year’s event yet, but here’s the information from last year.
I also chatted with Tim a little bit about my corntastrophe. He told me to just leave the corn where it fell over, because trying to stand it back upright could potentially break the fragile stalks. He said they would eventually start growing back up towards the light, and would probably still make full ears just fine.
One day later, and they’ve done just that. The stalks are starting to curve back upright, and are holding their tassels up high and proud. Thanks, Tim! Here’s hoping we still get corn.