Waste Not

“Machigua” Nica for pig slop.

I’ve worked in restaurants for over 20 years. It’s fast paced challenging work; I’ve always enjoyed it. Though, as with all jobs, there are aspects that have frustrated me. The most upsetting thing about working restaurants is witnessing the mountains of food thrown away every day —breakfast, lunch and dinner… breakfast, lunch and dinner, 365 days a year.  Reputable research informs us that forty percent of the consumable food in the U.S. is thrown away; a statistic that has consumed me in the way thoughts of the ocean’s garbage gyres can drag me below the surface of despair.

When I lived in Chicago, I would leave the restaurant and sometimes see people sifting through the still nourishing food we threw into a vile trash bin; salvaging bits, tainted only because we’d put them in an unsanitary place. We also sent weekly meals to a homeless shelter, but it didn’t assuage the guilt I felt for serving piles of food that few could possibly finish, but to many who would complain if the portions were reduced. Some want their money’s worth, even if it is only to throw it away.

probecho!

probecho!

Finally, I have a restaurant job that has solved this dilemma. At La Finca y El Mar all of our waste is sorted: citrus rinds for compost, plate waste for pigs, plastics, glass and cardboard recycled, which creates a significantly decreased trash output .

Lucas. He was so emaciated and infested when Felipe took him in we doubted he'd live. But, He's gaining weight...yes, he was thinner.

Lucas. He was so emaciated and infested when Felipe took him in we doubted he’d live. But, He’s gaining weight…yes, he was thinner.

Felipe comes to the restaurant each morning and collects the food waste bins. The pigs get a diverse and tasty supplement to their feed, his adopted farm dog Lucas, enjoys the pork scraps and bones he and his coworkers pull out of the pig’s portion, the compost benefits from a boost of acidity for our alkaline soil, and I am freed from agonizing over my contribution to waste and indifference.

Probecho piggies!

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The Road from Farm to Table

Self Sustainable. Organic. Farm to Table. Appealing words— admirable concepts. But  we seldom consider what it entails to bring such belief systems to fruition; how we navigate the road from farm…to table.

Farmer Chris and Sous Chef Adam on Machete Duty

Farmer Chris and Sous Chef Adam on Machete Duty

This week at Rancho Santana’s chicken facility our farm and kitchen staff walked that path.

Felipe and Omar Plucking

Felipe and Omar Plucking

Melky and Justin Butchering

Melky and Justin Butchering

Hen to plate.

Sautéed Chicken Liver with Radish, Fennel Frond Salad

Sautéed Chicken Liver with Radish, Fennel Frond Salad

The next generation.

The next geration

Walk this Way

Daily walks are essential to me, so today I set out to chart and time my route to work and find a good daily stroll.

What my  walk to work looks like.

What my walk to work looks like.

About twenty minutes later…

I arrive at the club house.

I arrive at the club house.

Twenty minutes is perfect to clear my head before work, but for health and sanity at least an hour is required.

After an hour on the trails...

After an hour on the trails…

Playa Escondido

Playa Escondido

Kind of like home, but with a beach!

Kind of like home, but with a beach!

The end of the trail.

The end of the trail.

After a couple of hours on Rancho Santana’s clean but thankfully not overly groomed hiking trails, I will rest well and be ready for my first day at El Finca y El Mar.

What do you do the day before you start a new job?

Culling

Selfie with Chupa

Selfie with Chupa

When I was a little girl  I had a friend whose family were farmers. I loved Jackie and the Ludwigs, they were self-assured, no nonsense, capable people. They gave big hugs, and ate huge piles of food at their long table full kids and laughter.

Merle, Jackie’s daddy, was a ruddy man with gnarled hands and an earnest smile. I remember one afternoon spent with him in the pig barn, watching a sow give birth. The place was bright and cozy with heating lamps. There was a rail round the birthing pen to protect the piglets. All Merle had to do was tie off their umbilical cords, cut their milk teeth and look them over. The sow murmured peacefully. I watched, fascinated and relaxed, as mucky piglets slid from their mother into Merle’s hands. Jackie went to nap in the hayloft; piglets were a run of the mill happening. Then suddenly, to my horror, Merle dashed a piglet’s head against the concrete wall. It was silent — killed instantly. My anguished gasp must have disturbed him from his meditative method, because he glanced up and spoke (another shock; he wasn’t one to explain himself.)

“Abby, that piglet would have suffered and died. It was kinder to kill it.”

Then he turned back to his vigil, and I went to the hayloft and cried. I didn’t disturb Jackie; I didn’t want her to think I was a wimp. She was a real farm girl, I knew she’d never cry over a piglet, or doubt her father’s judgment.

I thought of Merle the day I found Chupa with her little legs spinning, covered in fire ants, unable to stand. I asked Felipe to kill her. I’m ashamed to say I usually lack the courage to kill , even to be merciful .

He said, “Let’s give her a day or two.”

I understood. When you raise animals, you’re responsible for bringing lives into the world . Even though it’s their destiny is to die, we’re still inclined to save them; give them time, care —hope.

And so the story goes. .

Sadly, but appropriately, Chupa has been slaughtered. She never fully recovered from her head injury, and as she grew it was harder for her to walk and play without falling. I was concerned she’d tumble into the creek ravine and be seriously injured. My brother-in- law Santos, an experienced butcher, came to the house; she died here with us, swiftly. The meal was made for my sister-in-laws 50th birthday party. It was a fitting end to a truly happy piggy existence.

Chupa spent most of her afternoons bathing in the bog.

Chupa spent most of her afternoons bathing in the bog.

I loved raising Chupa, but she consumed a lot of resources and we lost money on her; small losses make a difference on a farm like ours. Felipe has since realized that not culling when it’s appropriate stresses the sow, and undermines her ability to care for her healthy piglets. I’ll not likely have the opportunity to bottle feed a piglet at eleven… one… three… and five o’clock in the morning again, and though I wouldn’t trade my time with Chupa for all the lost sleep —that’s okay with me.