East Austin farmer turns restaurant compost into microgreens

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Joe's Organics, a composting hauling company, evolved to include Joe's Microgreens, an East Austin farm that grows microgreens and field crops for sale at local farmers markets. Photo from Joe's Organics.
Joe's Organics, a composting hauling company, evolved to include Joe's Microgreens, an East Austin farm that grows microgreens and field crops for sale at local farmers markets. Photo from Joe's Organics.

Joe’s Organics, a composting hauling company, evolved to include Joe’s Microgreens, an East Austin farm that grows microgreens and field crops for sale at local farmers markets. Photo from Joe’s Organics.

For four years, Joe Diffie has been hauling food scraps from businesses around Austin to an acre of land in East Austin where his company, Joe’s Organics, is based.

But turning food waste into compost is only one part of the food chain. Diffie wanted to take that compost and use it to grow new food. That’s how Joe’s Microgreens were born.

For the past year, Diffie has been using the nutrient-dense yield from the compost-hauling side of his business to produce all kinds of sprouts, greens and vegetables to sell at local farmers markets. In some cases, he’s selling produce back to the restaurants who are his composting clients.

The most popular microgreens that Diffie sells are cilantro, basil and radish, but he also grows lesser-known plants such as shiso, a Japanese herb you might find on top of a sushi dish. During the summer months, he’ll continue to grow the microgreens on the farm near Boggy Creek and U.S. 183, as well as field crops such as peppers and tomatoes to sell at three local farmers markets: the Sustainable Food Center Farmer’s Market Downtown and Texas Farmers Markets at Lakeline on Saturdays, as well as the Texas Farmers Markets at Mueller on Sundays.

Diffie says that as the city’s composting regulations start to take effect, which will eventually require nearly all businesses with food permits to compost all of their food waste, more companies like his will be required to deal with the “mountains and mountains” of food waste that we produce. It’s a part of the food chain we don’t see very much of, but Diffie hopes that by selling edible products back to customers, it will help close the loop and increase our understanding of the food cycle.

“We want to make the most of that waste,” he says.


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