Rogue Produce turns food waste into farming gold

ASHLAND, Ore. – Thomas Petersen is one of the owners of Evers Ridge Farm in the Rogue Valley.

Since the farm first started, he has been using worms to create rich compost for his farm.

“We started doing worm composting in these beds and we had just like two handfuls of worms to start with,”  Petersen said.

Now, he has three beds full of worms receiving compost from his farm, local restaurants, and the organization Rogue Produce.

Rogue Produce has been delivering food scraps to farmers across Jackson County for over 10 years.

“We started in 2011,” said Rogue Produce owner Adam Holtey.  “I heard on the radio of a similar program going on in California and I realized there wasn’t a service to pick up residential food scraps or commercial food scraps in our area.”

Holtey says it was his goal from the start to bring the scraps to Rogue Valley farms.

“Eagle Mill Farm in Ashland, that was the first location where we would bring the scraps and the farm would use it,” Holtey said.  “Mix it with other materials and turn it into compost.”

People in Ashland can sign up to have the scraps collected directly from their homes for a small fee.

“We’ve traditionally done direct pickup from people’s homes.  So we just go directly to their home, take their bin, dump their bin into our bins and leave their bin and we take it to the farm.”

Holtey says over the past year, the compost operation has seen major growth and public interest from people in the Ashland area.

“In 2022, I kept getting approached by a lot of different people that wanted to really broaden the service area and really make efforts to make it a city-wide operation.,” he said.

Now, the scraps can also be collected at the Ashland Farmer’s Market for free or the Belview Grange for a discounted rate through winter.

Thanks to this growth, farmers like Petersen are able to make the most out of food waste.

“It’s turned into a great avenue to get a lot of food waste out of the landfill out of trash bins and actually going straight to a local farm where it’s like, it’s gold for us.”

Petersen says even if you’re not giving food scraps to Rogue Produce, you can still make use of those holiday leftovers.

“There’s always the extra mashed potatoes and that extra you know green bean casserole that no one wants,” said Petersen.  “We’ll have bins out here at Evers Ridge Farm if people want to drop off food scraps and you want to come see where it actually will get produced and turned into compost.”

Rogue Produce says beginning next year, it will have free collection bins at the Medford Farmer’s Market.

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Taylar Ansures is a producer and reporter for NBC5 News. Taylar is from Redding, California and went to California State University, Chico. After graduating, she joined KRCR News Channel 7 in Redding as a morning producer. She moved to Southern Oregon in 2022 to be closer to family and became KTVL News 10’s digital producer. Taylar is currently finishing her Master's Degree in Professional Creative Writing through the University of Denver. In her free time, Taylar frequents independent bookstores and explores hiking trails across Southern Oregon and Northern California.
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