Farmer Tom Price recycles paper products to use as bedding for his hogs.

Waste Not

Tom Price is the type of guy who can see the silver lining.

Take his hog barn at Pork-Q-Pine Farm in Delaware County. Where many people would see pigs living like typical pigs, Price sees flowerbeds. And while the animals provide the olfactory experience only pigs can provide, Price can envision a product worthy of the name Barnyard Café.

And don’t even think about calling the nutrient rich byproduct produced by his animals waste. It’s what helped Price launch a second business that has protected the environment while winning the favor of a growing crop of neighbors.

“We started composting with our manures probably about 10, 15 years ago,” Price said. “Really the main reason was to take our manure management to the next level.”

That effort eventually blossomed into Price-Farms Organics, a commercial scale composting facility that helps grow the gardens and yards of Delaware-area residents.

Price is the first to point out that raising hogs and a small herd of cattle while operating the large composting facility is not a “lily white” business. And he’s right. With its environmentally conscious approach, the operation more accurately falls in the category of green. Price’s son John, who helps manage the business, described how the process starts with bedding used for the hogs.

“We do bed with all paper products. So newspaper, magazines, cardboard all is dropped off at a 24-hour drop-off facility over at Mom and Dad’s,” he said.

In all, local residents provide the farm with about 1,000 pounds of paper per day.

“We’re helping the community recycle their paper goods through the farm. I think they feel like they have somewhat of a sense of ownership within the farm and the operation here,” John said.

Soiled paper is cleared from the barn about once a week. From there the recipe is simple. Add coffee grounds and yard waste, let the composting process cook the organic material for a year or so and voila! You end up with Price’s Barnyard Café blend.

But perhaps you have a bit more exotic desires when it comes to feeding your flowers and vegetables. If so, try Price’s Zoo Brew. The special ingredient is scraped daily from the pens and cages at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. In all, the zoo sends about 1,000 tons of manure and bedding annually to Price’s facility.

“More than likely the material would go into the landfill which we’re trying to avoid, or there are facilities that would burn this material, and we don’t think either one is the right thing to do,” said the zoo’s environmental coordinator Ralph Anderson in a recent interview for the Our Ohio television series.

For homeowners and landscapers using his compost or amended soils, Price said the biggest advantage is they’re recycling and leaving a neutral carbon footprint. Price too, feels a deep responsibility to protect the environment.

After all, the farm lies along the Scioto River, which provides drinking water to Columbus-area residents. But downstream neighbors should be glad the land is under Price’s stewardship. He keeps livestock fenced well away from the water and has grass buffers to filter any runoff from the farm. Price has even created a nature preserve near the river that is used by the Scioto River Valley Federation to raise awareness about protecting the waterway.

The farm also aggressively manages odor and traffic issues and hires neighbor children to work part-time. John Price even plows the driveways for his neighbors during heavy snowstorms. This is one of several ways Price builds relationships with his neighbors.

“We try to build a bank account of good will with the farming operation,” Tom Price said. “It’s just being active in the community, looking for opportunities to partner with your neighbors and with the community, and we just need to do more of it.”

Watch a video about Tom Price’s farm on YouTube.

*Editor’s Note: Our Ohio received a question about the safety of the ink used on paper products.  According to Ohio State University Extension, lead was banned as an ingredient in ink in 1985.  In addition, once newspaper ink is dry, it is very stable and doesn’t absorb through the animals’ skin.  For more information, here is a fact sheet from Ohio State: