THOMASTOWN – The Greater Quabbin Food Alliance, a network to connect growers, planners and public health officials on issues related to the local food system, held its biannual meeting on Thursday, Dec. 4, at the Thomastown Innovation Center. Representatives of businesses, local agencies and nonprofits gathered to identify challenges they face and brainstorm solutions.
Amy Borezo, president of the board of the Quabbin Harvest Co-op, gave the group an update on the co-op’s progress since it began in a tent on the OIC lawn in 2009; she advised that since its new location’s soft opening in October it has reached its first sales goal and has purchased over $20,000 of produce from local farms since Sept. 1. The co-op is now up to five employees and is serving an average of 170 customers each week.
Thanks to the equipment donations received from other New England co-ops, their foodselling capacity is higher than they originally expected when they chose the former Workers Credit Union building for their downtown site.
“We’re doing amazing,” Borezo was pleased to say, citing the co-op’s local hiring, local purchasing and weekly growth.
Rick Innes, owner of Clear View Composting, also gave the group an update, though his was more mixed than Borezo’s; his company has handled more food waste every year since it opened in 2010, but he foresees some complications with the state’s new food waste regulations. These regulations require hundreds of institutional and commercial food waste producers (making more than a ton of waste each week) to keep that waste out of landfills. But, he noted, there are fewer than 50 companies in the state which could divert the waste to composting, methane collection or for feeding farm animals. While Innes agrees that food waste should be diverted from landfills, he’s concerned about the ratio of producers to re-users.
Clear View is licensed to handle up to 2,000 tons of food waste per year, but it’s currently handling five tons.
Following these and other brief updates, the 30-odd attendees broke into small groups for more focused discussion and problem solving. Lunch was provided by the Bohemian Kitchen, North Main Street, and the day ended with tours of the OIC and the Quabbin Harvest Co-op.