KEARNEYSVILLE – Cam Tabb believes in large-scale recycling. On Sunday, he’ll get the opportunity to tell the nation about it when PBS’ NewsHour Weekend will run a feature Sunday about a five-year-old collaboration between Lyle C. Tabb & Sons and food service operations at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, whose kitchen food scraps and cafeteria leftovers get turned into into what they call “black gold” at the Tabb’s Kearneysville farm.
The effort saves hundreds of pounds of food waste from being landfilled each week, turning it instead to a valuable agricultural supplement.
The waste-reduction collaboration begins at the VA’s nutrition and food service department in Martinsburg, which is headed by nutritionist Barbara Hartman. The staff places food scraps into biodegradable bags that are then placed in recycled boxes and stored in a freezer. Every two weeks the food waste is picked up and taken to the Tabb farm to be composted.
“Our relationship with the VA has enabled us to realize another level of recycling that we did not think possible,” said Cam Tabb, whose farm began large-scale recycling in the early 1990s. “I hope our story will educate others about creative ways to recycle and reduce landfill deposits of food waste, which is what we are all working for.”
According to the USDA and the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of food produced in the United States is not eaten. This translates into $165 billion worth of food annually.
“As we have become involved with recycling programs on our farm, we have made it a priority to create a profit margin while maintaining the integrity of recycling wastes and adding value to them,” said Tabb. “By making our recycling enterprise sustainable, the potential for expansion is endless, versus programs that depend on outside funding.”
This collaboration has become one of the federal government’s most successful food waste reduction programs according to Biocycle magazine. Other VA hospitals around the nation have replicated this model developed in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.
The Tabb family farm is now in its fifth generation. Farm operations include grain crops, a 500-head Angus beef herd that is antibiotic and hormone free, and large-scale recycling of food scraps, yard trimmings, manure and wood wastes.
With 70,000 agriculturally productive acres, Jefferson County is one of West Virginia’s top counties for agriculture. Tabb & Sons’ large-scale recycling operation is just one of several progressive undertakings in the county. Farmers in Jefferson County use high tunnels to extend the growing season and increase the production of the land without the use of fossil fuels. And with the presence of the Freshwater Institute in Shepherdstown, the county is at the forefront of international aquaculture.
The segment was produced by New York City producer Yuval Lion. It is subject to rescheduling without prior notice.
Miss the program?
The segment can be viewed after it airs Sunday by following this link.