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Winston-Salem Company Finds New Use For Triad's Food Waste

July 26, 2012 | Keri Brown

The Gallins Composting Farm is a 2-acre site off of Thomasville Road in the Southeast part of Winston-Salem. Twice a week, bright yellow, red and green produce is dumped into a large pile.

“See the raw produce, this is from a grocery store, things like lettuce and cabbage these are items that could not sell or are rotten, said Pete Gallins.

Since May of 2011, Pete Gallins and his cousin Rucker Sewell have been collecting tons of non-meat waste from businesses in the food industry and schools and turning it into compost. The Gallins family already owns a food service business in Winston-Salem and recently began experimenting with the process. They saw a need for recycling discarded produce in the Piedmont Triad.

“We all end up paying those costs to close the landfills, to remediate the water pollution from them to deal with the climate change, so we all have an interest to see this material go to somewhere else other than the landfill,” said Gallins.

The Gallins Farm is the only composting facility in the Triad with a type 3 state permit allowing it to recycle discarded fruits and vegetables. The recipe process begins with some science, adding mainly straw and some landscaping debris.

“Food waste is high in nitrogen. There are 10 carbon molecules for every one nitrogen molecule, Straw is probably more like a 40 to 1. So there are 40 carbon molecules per one nitrogen," said Gallins.

"We want to be at 25 to 1 and the reason you are doing that is if there is more than one of carbon or nitrogen, the microorganisms can’t properly break down the material.”

Most of the equipment at the composting site is made from old farm tools and recycled materials to help cut production costs. One of them turns the compost pile.

Twice a week, a front-end loader flips sections of the decaying vegetable/fruit mix, the same way a person uses a spatula to flip a pancake.  This helps cut down on the fly population and improves the oxygen flow in the compost.

After about 2 to 3 months, the material goes from being recognizable trash to a black, earthy soil mix-- rich in nitrogen. It then is cured for another month before going through a screening process.

The piece of equipment used to sort out any unwanted materials is known as “Pete’s screening machine”.

“So what we do here is come in with the front end loader and scoop up this material and we drop it at the top of that screener and the big stuff will float down to this side as and a nice fine material will come down in the middle and that is what we end up to sell as Carolina Dynamite,” said Gallins.

Carolina Dynamite is compost that mixes well with the Triad’s iron-rich soil.

Currently, it’s sold in 4 locations in Forsyth County, including LA Garden Showcase. Company president Ken Long said the product is hard to keep on the shelves.

“We have a lot of people starting a few years ago getting into vegetable and square foot gardening which there is a procedure or recipe that calls for many types of compost and we didn’t always have the types of compost that customers wanted so this gave us an opportunity to add another one,” said Long.

Gallins Farm currently collects raw food waste from about two dozen schools, restaurants, grocery stores in the Piedmont Triad.  Wake Forest University started using the service seven months ago for food garbage generated by meal preparation in “The Pit”, its student dining hall.  

According to manager of waste reduction and recycling Megan Anderson, WFU doesn’t have a place on campus to compost on its own. Anderson said the Gallins Farm composting service is meeting the school’s needs.

“When we reduce times that we have to take loads over to the landfill then we end up not paying so many tipping fees for landfill and all those charges for hauling the containers back and forth and it also causes a lot of congestion back in the food service area, so big savings with environmental and economic costs as well,” said Anderson.

Anderson said Wake Forest University plans to expand the recycling services to other dining areas on campus.

Gallins service is also attracting clients outside the food-industry. Recently, he picked up a load generated by the cast and crew of, “You Are Here” starring Owen Wilson. The film is being shot in several Triad locations.  

Gallins Composting Farm has received a $30,000 grant from the North Carolina Recycling Business Assistance Center. Some of the funds will be used to help them buy new equipment they can’t build themselves.

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