Group aims to feed chickens, not landfills

Apr 6, 2020

Credit Kenai Change

Looking for a way to save the world? Here’s an idea: Feed chickens, not landfills.

OK, that’s maybe overly optimistic, but Kenai Change is finding that even a small project, like repurposing food scraps, can have a big impact. In October, the group started a community composting project to reduce the amount of organic waste going to the Soldotna landfill. The idea came out of a book-to-action series, which helped the group brainstorms ways the central Kenai Peninsula could help combat global warming.

The book, “Drawdown,” presents potential solutions, large and small, and the group used it as a way to research and plan what to work on locally. Kaitlin Vadla, with Cook Inletkeeper’s Community Action Studio in Soldotna, helped facilitate the program.

“What I like most about the book is that it turns climate change and global warming from this, like, unsolvable, insurmountable totally overwhelming depressing problem into a math problem that’s solvable,” Vadla said. “And all of the solutions, whether they be big or small, have a measurable impact and we need them all. So you can be excited about the big, sexy stuff or excited about the small stuff. And you can make a real difference and I think that’s pretty empowering.” 

The group voted on a project that could involve a lot of people and be achievable in a year. Compost was the winner.

“It wasn’t necessarily the big municipal composting projects that had the biggest impact or were the most elegant solutions,” Vadla said. “It was often just reducing the amount that you buy at the grocery store and then, if you can, doing a home composting system or a neighborhood composting system.”

Kenai Change worked with Blair Martin at Diamond M Ranch on K-Beach Road, who already was collecting summer salmon carcasses and food scraps from community festivals to compost. The new projects started out collecting food scraps from households around the central peninsula to add to the compost pile.

Which was great. Until:

“And then the winter came. And everything was frozen and we couldn’t really add to the pile and so Blair said, ‘Well, why don’t we feed the scraps to chickens?’ And that’s actually another thing in that hierarchy of reducing food waste is, first, don’t buy more than you need. And then, second, if you have more than you need, don’t throw it away, first give it to people who need it and then to animals who need it and then think about composting it after that,” she said.

The group has buckets to give out for anyone wanting to join. Participants collect food scraps, store them somewhere cool and drop them off at Diamond M once a week. Collecting for chickens is even easier than collecting for composting. Don’t use plastic bags as a bucket liner and avoid feeding chicken to chickens, but other than that, pretty much anything goes.

“What’s cool is chickens can eat anything,” Vadla said. “What you sweep up — dog hair, your coffee filters, all the things that sometimes you have to keep out of compost, like meat or bread, you can put in a chicken scrap bucket. And they’ll scratch through whatever they don’t really want to eat and they’ll eat the rest. And then their manure can be added to a compost pile in the spring or early summer. And it’s a really additive part of the composting process.”

Vadla says the Diamond M chickens can eat up to 10 gallons of scraps a day. They aren’t yet at capacity so there’s room for more people to get involved. Buckets can be picked up and dropped off at Diamond M Ranch. Go in the main entrance and look for the Feed Chickens, Not Landfills sign near the office.

If the chicken scrap donations get to capacity, it’ll be time to grow the project further — look for more farmers who could use scraps and more homes and businesses that want to contribute. Vadla says that making those connections is part of the benefit of this solution.

“Sometimes we get stuck on the individual-based solutions, like, I am going to recycle and I am going to compost, and it feels very lonely or insignificant in the face of global systemic issues. So we counter that by signing petitions and trying to change national policy and sometimes that just feels like a drop in the bucket. But I think when you focus on making a local impact, it’s something you can actually achieve,” she said.

Find out more about the project at www.KenaiChange.org.