Backhauling Compost Program
Compost containers are located in the cooler at the warehouse, underneath the assembly line where orders are packed. As the packing team sorts through produce, anything they find that is blemished will go into either a “Take Home” bin or a Compost bin. Items in the “Take Home” bin are either given to a food pantry or are left for employees to take home. Anything not fit for human consumption is moved to the compost bin. In addition, all employees are encouraged to compost scraps from their own lunches, etc in these compost bins.

A group of warehouse packers sorting through produce that will either be sent to customers or deemed "Take Home" or "Compost."

The compost bins are about 20-25 gallons and 6-10 bins each are filled each week. As bins accumulate, they are sent to a local farmer who is able to finish the composting process on their farm when picking up new produce.

Greens inside a compost bin

Before Compost Comes Utilizing Food and Reducing Waste
Of course putting food to good use before composting is important and Irv & Shelly’s has developed a couple of ways to facilitate that. Produce that has cosmetic deficiencies are sold as “blemished” at a reduced cost to our customers. See examples of blemished apples for sale.

Customers are encouraged to use blemished items, like apples, for uses where the appearance doesn’t matter, like juicing or baking. We are always looking for more ways to reduce food waste and are investigating ways to offer more prepared food options to use some of our “ugly” produce (twisty carrots or nicked peaches) into delicious meals, juices or snacks. Blemished food is also used by partnering with local bakery, Delightful Pastries that uses bananas and zucchinis with cosmetic flaws that will be baked into banana and zucchini bread.

Worker smiling at camera with paperwork in hand, standing near delivery truck next to labelled packages.

Compared to a grocery store which typically stocks more than it can sell, Irv & Shelly’s doesn’t have a retail space or need to beautify displays. By predicting ordering patterns for the week and ordering just enough food to fill the orders we are left with minimal excess. Predictions can go awry which leaves an excess or shortfall. When faced with an excess, items are features, put on sale, or promoted before composting.

Man and woman standing a corn field with trees and hill in background

By working directly with local farmers and their fragile produce, there are challenges with food scrap reduction at times. For example, if there is a hard rain just before a berry harvest, chances are that the berries will not last as long as planned. Through flexibility and creativity, the product is used as quickly as possible. Despite these challenges, food scrap reduction is a top priority for many reasons and will continue to improve processes to reduce the environmental footprint of the business. Shelly & Richard de Wilde of Harmony Valley Farm in Viroqua, WI are pictured to the right. Irv & Shelly’s works closely with Richard to source high quality organic produce. Harmony Valley is another one of our farmers who take food scraps from us and turn them into compost to continue the cycle of growing more delicious organic produce!

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