COMPOSTING 101: WHY AND HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

GUEST POST BY: DAVE SALAZAR - ORGANIC FARMER


ONE OF OUR REQUIREMENTS WHEN FULFILLING CATERING JOBS IS TO MAKE ETHICAL AND MEANINGFUL EFFORTS TOWARDS MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN OUR CURRENT FOOD SCENE. ONE OF THESE REQUIREMENTS IS TO PRACTICE COMPOSTING DURING OUR PREPARATION AS WELL AS DURING OUR CLEAN-UP AT ALL OF OUR EVENTS. NOT ONLY DO WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE ON OUR OWN, WE EDUCATE OUR CLIENTS AND CUSTOMERS ON HOW THEY TOO, CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

WE'VE BEEN LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE OUR GOOD FRIEND AND FARMER, DAVE SALAZAR (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH ONE OF OUR FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHERS, DAVID SALAZAR) WRITE A FEATURED POST ON THE IMPORTANCE OF COMPOSTING, HIS OUTLOOK ON THE SCIENTIFIC, AEROBIC, AND LIFE-RECYCLING MEANING BEHIND IT ALL. OUR GOAL IS NOT TO HAVE EVERY READER BECOME A MASTER AT COMPOSTING (WE CERTAINLY ARE NOT), BUT WE WANT READERS TO UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE BEHIND WHY WE STRIVE TO PRACTICE THIS AT OUR EVENTS & OUR BUSINESS. IT MEANS SOMETHING TO US AND WE'D LOVE TO EXPLAIN THE WHY!



THE DETAILS FROM DAVE:

COMPOSTING IS AN AEROBIC REACTION WHICH HARNESSES BENEFICIAL MICROBES (BACTERIA, FUNGI & ACTINOMYCETES) TO DIGEST FOOD SCRAPS AND CARBON SOURCES SUCH AS STRAW OR DRIED LEAVES. THE RESULTING PRODUCT IS NUTRIENT-RICH FLUFFY HUMUS (ORGANIC MATTER) WHICH CAN VASTLY IMPROVE SOIL QUALITY. THE MICROBES THAT BREAK DOWN FOOD IN COMPOSTING BREATHE AIR. THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF COMPOSTING IS TO KEEP TURNING THE PILE SO THEY DONT SUFFOCATE.

BASICALLY, THE MICROBES THAT LIVE IN A COMPOST PILE, USE CARBON AS A HOME AND NITROGEN AS A FOOD SOURCE. THE IDEAL PILE OF COMPOST WILL HAVE A RATIO OF C:N AROUND 25:1. FOOD SCRAPS TYPICALLY HAVE A C:N AROUND 15:1. FARMS OFTEN USE OLD STRAW OR DRIED LEAVES AS A SOURCE OF ADDITIONAL CARBON. 
(Yes, we got a bit technical on you for a second.)    


 Piles of organic matter to be composted by our friends at Sun Fresh Farm

Piles of organic matter to be composted by our friends at Sun Fresh Farm


WHILE WORKING AT POTOMAC VEGETABLE FARM IN VIRGINIA, I MADE HIGH QUALITY COMPOST BY FOLLOWING THE LUEBKE METHOD, OR CONTROLLED MICROBIAL COMPOSTING. ALL THE "INGREDIENTS" (STRAW, LEAVES, MANURE, AND OLD VEGETABLES) OF THE COMPOST ARE LAID OUT IN 200 FOOT STRIPS (QINDROWS) ABOUT THIGH HEIGHT. A FEW BUCKETS OF FINISHED COMPOST WAS THEN ADDED TO INOCULATE THE WINDROW WITH BENEFICIAL COMPOSTING MICROBES. A TRACTOR WITH SPECIALLY-DESIGNED WINDROW TURNERS WAS USED A FEW TIMES A WEEK TO MIX ALL OF THE INGREDIENTS AND 'FLUFF' THE PILES TO FACILITATE RESPIRATION. HUGE FELT BLANKETS WERE THEN USED TO KEEP EXCESSIVE RAINFALL FROM SOAKING THE PILES, WHILE STILL ALLOWING THE PILES TO BREATHE. THE INTERNAL (FROM THE CENTER OF THE PILE) TEMPERATURE OF THE PILE WAS CHECKED EVERYDAY WAS WELL AS THE LEVELS OF THE MOISTURE AND CO2. AFTER HOVERING AROUND 150 DEGREES, THE PILE WILL BEGIN TO COOL AS THE COMPOST BECOMES READY. THE ENTIRE PROCESS TYPICALLY TAKES 8-10 WEEKS. 

 Farmer Jeremy from Sun Fresh Farm showing us organic matter soon to be composted.

Farmer Jeremy from Sun Fresh Farm showing us organic matter soon to be composted.

THE FINISHED PRODUCT OF A WELL-MANAGED COMPOST PILE IS ORGANIC MATTER CALLED 'HUMUS' QHICH DOES WONDERS FOR SOIL HEALTH, AS WELL AS PROVIDES A THRIVING ECOSYSTEM FOR PLANTS TO GROW. THE ADDITION OF HUMUS TO THE SOIL IS BENEFICIAL IN A MYRIAD OF WAYS. HUMUS ACTS AS A SPONGE, INCREASING THE SOIL'S ABILITY TO RETAIN WATER, MAKING PLANTS MORE RESISTANT TO BOTH DROUGHTS AND FLOODING. THE MOLECULAR STRUCTURE OF HUMUS INCREASES SOIL'S NUTRIENT-HOLDING ABILITY, CALLED "CATION-EXCHANGE CAPACITY." HUMUS CAN HOLD ONTO CRUCIAL NUTRIENTS SUCH AS POTASSIUM, CALCIUM, AND MAGNESIUM WHILE PREVENTING  THEM FROM BEING LOST DURING HEAVY RAINS, WHILE STILL REMAINING AVAILABLE TO PLANTS.

YES, SOIL HEALTH DOES AFFECT THE NUTRITIONAL COMPOSITION OF YOUR FRUITS & VEGGIES.

IN THE UNITED STATES, OVER ONE THIRD OF ALL FOOD PRODUCED IS WASTED - MORE THAN 20 POUNDS PER PERSON. ORGANIC WASTE IS THE SECOND LARGEST COMPONENT OF LANDFILLS, WHICH ARE THE LARGEST SOURCE OR METHANE EMISSIONS. METHANE IS A GREENHOUSE GAS 21 TIMES MORE POTENT THAN CO2. A PROPERLY MANAGED (WELL AERATED) COMPOST PILE SHOULD GENERATE A MINIMAL AMOUNT OF METHANE. LARGE AMOUNTS OF CO2 ARE GENERATED WHILE COMPOSTING, HOWEVER THE CARBON HAD RECENTLY BEEN TAKEN OUT OF THE ATMOSPHERE BY PLANTS AND THUS REPRESENTS A NET GAIN OF ZERO. CONVERSELY, CARBON RELEASED FROM THE BURNING OF FOSSIL FUELS HAD BEEN STORED IN THE STABLE FORM OF PETROLEUM FOR MILLENNIA. IF YOU LIVE IN A SMALL APARTMENT, THE BEST WAY TO PROCESS FOOD SCRAPS IS WITH WORMS. RED WIGGLER WORM COMPOSTING KITS ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE AND CAN EASILY HANDLE THE AMOUNT OF FOOD WASTE GENERATED BY A HOUSEHOLD. THESE HARD-WORKING HERMAPHODITES ARE THE QUICKEST WAY TO TURN APPLE CORES INTO QUALITY COMPOST IF PROPERLY MANAGED. THE DETAILS OF WORM COMPOSTING ARE COVERED IN THE PERENNIAL BEST-SELLER "WORMS EAT MY GARBAGE."

ALL-IN-ALL, IF YOU'VE GOTTEN TO THE END OF THIS ARTICLE, WE COMMEND YOU AND TAKE OUR HATS OFF TO YOU. IT WAS PRETTY INTENSE FOR A NON-GARDENER, NON-FARMER, OR THE FURTHEST THING FROM A SCIENTIST KIND OF READ. OUR EFFORTS TO REDUCE OUR WASTE, BETTER OUR SOILS, AND MAKE EFFORTS TO BETTER THE LAND THAT CONTINUES TO GIVE TO US IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS WE CAN DO AS A COMPANY. HERE AT THE COOKING COLLABORATIVE, WE VALUE OUR FARMERS AND OUR FOOD REFORMERS FOR THEIR EFFORTS AND WE'RE MOST CERTAINLY HERE TO SUPPORT THEM. WE'RE HOPING TO LINK THE FARMER'S EFFORTS TO YOUR FORK. 


IF YOU'RE A FLORIDA FARMER, PLEASE GIVE US A SHOUT AT THE LINK BELOW!


8 RULES TO ROCKING YOUR PERSONAL RODEO


8 RULES TO ROCKING YOUR PERSONAL RODEO


This article first appeared in Equestrian Times Magazine.

Some days we feel as if we’re experiencing our own personal rodeo, from one task to the next, life can be quite grueling. Finding balance as a dedicated rider, or possibly just finding balance in general may prove to be a struggle for some. Dedicating my work to expand beyond my kitchen doors is quite easy, but controlling the reigns lies in the difficulty that is; defining my industry to be one that recognizes food as one of the key elements to good health, while finding balance between it all.  Here’s our top suggestions for controlling the reins of your own health, and why rocking your own personal rodeo may not be that hard after all. 


RULE NO. 1:
BE IN A COMMITTED RELATIONSHIP
(WITH YOUR HEALTH)


The harsh reality that there are only 24 hours in a day for a busy individual is the downfall to anyone struggling to fit everything in. One thing we recommend as our number one rule, is to be fully committed to what your goals are. Let it be a fire under you, an obsession, and the burning desire that drives you forward. Staying focused on the task at hand almost always proves to create a faster or more complete end result.


RULE NO. 2: PLAN AHEAD


The key to success never falls short without a proper plan. The saying goes “fail to plan and plan to fail.” This statement could not be more accurate. Yes, winging it may be a familiar practice, but true accomplishments lies in the hands ofsolid plan. With the various apps that are available today, we really have no excuse to organize our thoughts and formulate something great.


RULE NO. 3:

CLEAR YOUR SPACE AND FREE YOUR MIND


A cluttered space results in a cluttered mind. Multiple scholarly publications have shown that stress levels drastically rise while clarity decreases when clutter surrounds them. If you think of clutter in the same way that you think of a chaotic day, we can measure how incredibly similar they both can be. 


RULE NO. 4: FIND & EMBRACE A 'FRIENDTOR'


One of the key elements of reaching a goal is dependent on the team that supports you. It is said that any good leader knows they are only as good as their team. The same is true in regards to your success on any level whether that is a team of 2 or a team of 200. Being on a journey alone only sculpts the mind’s individual thoughts and ideas, however others are the ones to put these thoughts into actions. The support and motivation that is gained by working on a common goal helps to guide you, motivate you, and drive your stamina whether on the horse or off of it. Whether you are meeting a goal you have set forth for you and your horse, or a goal that extends beyond your training, taking a step to the next one is easier with someone to support you. Embrace one another’s thoughts. Let it mold you. Let it excite you.  If you don't always believe in yourself, rest assured knowing that a good friendtor always will.


RULE NO. 5: ASK QUESTIONS, SEEK ANSWERS


If you’re anything like most individuals, there’s a struggle that takes place at some point in our lifetime in regards to our health, whether diminutive or life-changing. Severe or mild, health and wellbeing needs the honesty of dramatizing even the most minuscule issues at hand if that means finding a bigger answer. If you are an individual who is seeking answers this rule is for you! We often take our health for granted assuming that our bodies are functioning correctly without having any pre-conceived notion that they may be in fact, under attack. I have found that being a well-educated patient is a savor when it comes to finding answers to your questions. A doctor can only do so much, much like a ‘friendtor’ can only motivate you to a certain degree. It is up to the individual to piece together a portion of the puzzle to draw closer to an answer or a goal. Nutrition and Health awareness does not have to be a victim of ignorance. Simply put, educate yourself on the warning signs and the internal alarms that your body provides. 


RULE NO. 6: GET TO KNOW WHAT'S GROWING


When rounding up these personal rodeo tasks, factor this one in as one of your top priorities. We cannot stress this enough. Get to know your gardener, your farmer, and the concept that fresh is best. Burry the boxed goods, and throw away your artificial sweeteners. Get as close to nature as possible when it comes to your food.


RULE NO. 7: BULK PREP


This rule pairs nicely with Rule No. 2. If your goal is anything related to eating a healthier diet, eating out less frequently, or simply eating more homemade meals; bulk prep is likely your saving grace. By focusing on one day each week to prepare specific ingredients, you will save significant time throughout a busy week. Some of our favorite things to bulk are listed below:

  • Garbonzo beans
  • Black Beans
  • Lentils 
  • Quinoa
  • Brown Rice
  • Farro
  • Fresh Greens
  • Fresh Veggies (pre-cut)
  • Homemade Granola
  • Fresh Fruit (pre-cut)
  • Nuts (pre-portioned for on-the-go)

RULE NO. 8: PUSH YOURSELF


Finally, we’re putting the most obvious rule at the very end which is to push yourself. If these rules seemed to be rather obvious, our goal has worked. This article served as a reminder to those working towards a goal to keep doing what you’re doing and to possibly incorporate some of our favorite reminder rules when mastering your own personal rodeo.
 

With wholesomeness,
-THE COOKING COLLABORATIVE-

FIT TO RIDE - Equestrian Style'

This article first appeared in:

 Equestrian Times Magazine

If you’re anything like me, you grew up eating quality ingredients, with a mother who wouldn't let you leave the breakfast table without finishing your morning orange juice.  Possibly, you had a strict grandmother that stated, “you cant live on love alone.” Maybe, you were on the opposite end of the spectrum entirely and are just now realizing how vital it is to know what you're putting into your body. We tend to think of wellness to be singular and somewhat divided from what wellness fully and truly encompasses. We look to the media, those around us, and the trends that quickly unfold as steady guidance to what we should and shouldn't do in the world of wellness. While some of this guidance is quality information or somewhat complex, we have to remember that we must suit the needs of our own personal health versus the overall suggestions directed to the general public.

When my interest in culinary nutrition first sprouted, I was a college student studying the building arts. Many students hoped to become architects one day with the study of construction being the foundation of their studies. As a chef, I must look at ingredients and nutrition quite the same as these aspiring architects. You cannot lay the foundation of your diet with rubbish. You do not begin a blueprint for a home without a proper plan, a strong foundation, and the means to support the structure. Your system is quite the same. A fashion designer or seamstress does not simply sew. They design and create a garment that is outlined to fit the human form in the correct fashion. A nutritionist does not simply educate others on nourishment without understanding the interworking of the human organs relating it entirely to food. An equestrian does not become a skilled rider over night without months or years of practice controlling their 1200 pound horse. My point is...



"Nutritional study and the ability to truly cook does not happen overnight, however a quality foundation must be established for your body to run at optimum levels."

We build slowly, take away slowly, adjust and perfect much like any skill. 

While I am no longer a part of the building arts, I would now consider myself somewhat of a body architect. While I note in my upcoming website, I am not a nutritionist nor a dietician. I am a chef, quality food pusher who serves nourishing, nutrient-dense, and honest cuisine. I gear people to focus on the idea that quality health is so much more than the displacement of disease while the statement “You are what you eat,” couldn't be more true in its suggestion. 

My company prides itself off of being plant-pushers, nutrient-hunters, and happiness foragers - knowing that creating an ecosystem of overall wellness trumps what any medicine could ever do prior to a disease. We refrain from dismissing your choice “diet” as we are aware that not one individual is alike, nor faces a similar battle. There is no “one size fits all” in the diary of culinary nutrition. We believe in creating concrete nourishment and dietary adaptations to suit your needs while showcasing that developing successful eating habits & a healthy lifestyle isn't a journey that should be spent alone. This is precisely why we are called The Cooking Collaborative, as we are here to support the battles, victories, downfalls, and celebrations that you have with food. We are a culinary hive & an education incubator showcasing the powers of food. Our success begins with our clients & users, creating a collaboration of individuals ready to build healthier and happier bodies.

Over the years I have found that the most vital source of health comes from a balanced diet. The term balanced is one of the key words I use to describe a nourishing diet because it hits all the nutritional requirements that your system needs to operate correctly. Using the word healthy to describe food cannot be stated as truthful as nourishment is never a singular victory. All nutrients & vitamins must work together to create a healthy body. If an orchestra is missing a key note for their symphony, the cohesion of the music is off. If a boat is not properly constructed it will sink while a parked car cannot move without the proper fuel. Your system is no different. It has to have the correct levels of nutrients and minerals to lay the foundation of your health. 

If you were to look deeper into overall wellness in the equestrian world, it is hard to fathom a rider being anything but physically and mentally fit. Much like I had noted previously, health is so much more than the displacement of a disease, it is important to uncover the laws behind a quality rider, one who seems as if they are one with their horse and a true extension of the animal. The ability to be in unison with your horse does not just come from the ability to control a horse through jumps. It is far more than this as many riders can attest to. While strength may be one factor in the ability to control a 1200 pound animal, the nutritional value of food and lifestyle choices play an enormous role in a riders ability to stay focused and and have lasting, sustaining energy. Not only is it about the health of the individual it is about the strength and wellbeing of the horse, which directly correlates to the riders weight, strength, and stamina. In coming articles we will uncover the victories we gain from the correct diet. Until then we invite you to try our recipes and discover how amazing the benefits of food can truly be. 

With wholesomeness,

-THE COOKING COLLABORATIVE, AKA CHEF DEE-