Like any vegetable farm, we produce a fair amount of waste plant material, whether from weeding, harvesting, spoiled products, or bringing products back from market. These can certainly be composted, and we do keep several piles going for such things, but we’re just as likely to feed such things to our animals. The benefits here are that it’s far easier than composting, generates excellent fertilizer, and cuts down on other feed costs, while helping provide food for us in the long run. Indeed, one of the core reasons we decided to build an animal population on the farm was to help close such loops.
The goats are especially fond of green material, such as root crop tops and pea shoots. Here, Joanna is feeding them handfuls of radish tops. We really ought to be careful what we feed to Garlic, our dairy goat, as lots of strong items like radishes can affect her milk’s taste, but we have yet to notice that happening and so figure we haven’t crossed the meaningful threshold there.
Geese like anything tender, and will gobble up greens that are too strong for the goats. Below, we’ve just thrown a pile of radish greens into their pasture.
The chickens are ideal for general kitchen scraps and lightly spoiled produce. Given that all the vegetables we eat come from the farm, and almost all the fruit comes from the farmers market, we have no problem taking down a daily bucket of scraps. They also get spoiled or leftover items like okra, zucchini, tomatoes, and more. Below, they’re cleaning up a bucket of split tomatoes and leftover bok choi. Chickens will eat the seeds and flesh completely out of things like overgrown zucchini, taking what was a worthless hunk of vegetable and reducing it to a clean, hollow skin. And there’s nothing like watching chickens running around with cherry tomatoes in their beaks.
The manure produced from all this is either deposited on pastures where it is quite beneficial, or deposited within the animal sheds, where it’s naturally layered with straw and hay. This layer cake gets forked out now and then, becoming the base for excellent compost piles. We truly discard almost nothing, except for diseased or bug-ridden plants, which get burned to take care of the issue.