The Food Forest

Composting at 100 per cent at Food Forest

It’s the end of the lunch rush and Food Forest Cafe is buzzing with conversation, so Adam Deck and Katie Tuma suggest we do our interview out back.

Turns out they were speaking literally. We head outside to an open area behind the Water St. restaurant. Three mismatched chairs, which I later learn likely came from a thrift store, are waiting for us.

Next to the chairs are a few orange, five-gallon pails. Katie says there would usually be a lot more. The pails hold food scraps that farmers and gardeners pick up and use for compost, returning the pails later. During an average week Food Forest gives away 18 pails of the stuff, or 90 gallons.

Deck waves toward a brick wall that separates the courtyard area behind this section of Hunter St. buildings from those along Water St.

On the other side of the wall is a large dumpster bin that other restaurants in the block share and pay to have hauled away.

“Because we’re a plant-based restaurant 100 per cent of our food waste can be composted,” Deck says. “So, at the end of the week we have less than one garbage bag.”

That’s less garbage than most households produce. It goes to the curb for pickup by the city, a big cost saving for them and a load off the landfill site.

Food Forest is vegan and gluten free. It’s no coincidence that the plant-based nature of their menu produce minimal garbage. Deck and Tuma are health and ecology advocates first and restaurateurs second.

They met while studying ecological restoration at Fleming College in Lindsay. Inspired by what they were learning. they looked for a way to make a difference on their own. A vegan restaurant run on strict environmental principles was a natural outlet.

Tuma describes their relationship as “partners in life and in the restaurant.”

Food Forest opened three years ago in a smaller George St. location just north of downtown. A year ago they expanded to the 32-seat Hunter St. site, where they have 10 employees.

The restaurant’s fun, quirky feel fits its clientele and its owners’ personalities, but it was put together with intent.

Pine boards used during the interior renovation are all recovered scrap, most of it sourced from Deck’s father, who owns Deck Transport, a third-generation local trucking firm.

“We also do a lot of thrifting,” Tuma says. “Most of our small pots and cups and teapots are from the thrift store. . . . We aren’t really fans of buying all new.”

When possible they go beyond re-use to “don’t use.”

They don’t give out cutlery as part of their busy take-out business. Take-out containers are made from cane juice pulp, not paper, but they would rather you not use them at all. They charge 25 cents per container and encourage customers to bring their own instead.

“After doing a couple hundred of those orders that saves a lot of waste,” Deck says.

“And gets the conversation going,” Tuma adds. “We have really strict policies – our non-straw in house policy; we don’t give out take-out cutlery – things like that those create conversations, which makes some people uncomfortable but it allows us to explain why we’re doing it and that causes them to think about things in a different way.” They buy their organic vegetables locally whenever possible – Jenny Ross of Earth Nook Farm is their main local provider – and manage the entire business with a mindset of being sustainable, waste free and low carbon.

But the key element, they say, is serving only plant-based food.

“In regards to climate change, wth animal agriculture, especially the intense factory farming that goes on, the greenhouse gas emissions are more than all transportation combined,” Tuma says.

They see no endpoint to their sustainable journey.

“It shouldn’t just stop at a green promise or something like that,” Tuma says. “We kind of assess what we can improve on and how we can get the community involved. It’s fun … fun having that role.”

This is one of a series of articles commissioned and paid for by Sustainable Peterborough and published in partnership with The Peterborough Examiner. By Jim Hendry, Peterborough Examiner, original article published Saturday, June 18, 2016.