A heap of butter. That’s all that’s left of the New York State Fair Butter Sculpture. It was torn down by volunteers from Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners on September 4, 2018. So starts its journey into renewable energy at Noblehurst Farms in Pavilion, New York. Once it’s recycled, the butter will help power the farm and be used as liquid fertilizer for crops.

Unloading the butter, Michael Boerman, Market Area Manager for Natural Upcycling and Noblehurst Farms, explains that dairy farmers are the original environmentalists and they try not to let anything to go to waste. Not even 800 pounds of inedible butter.

Within 24 hours of arriving on the farm, the butter gets mixed with the food scraps collected from local Wegmans’ stores and other supermarkets and restaurants in the area. “We’re going to be mixing it with our cow manure as well as other food waste to put into our digester,” said farm owner Chris Noble.

food wasteThe biggest questions always asked is, why can’t the butter be eaten? It’s too salty, says Chris, and not kept to a consistent temperature while at the Fair. Think about it. The butter first was softened for sculpting, then chilled to hold its shape throughout the Fair, and then the temperature raised again so that it could be removed. Would you really want to eat that after it’s been handled so much?

Instead, microbes in the anaerobic tank will eat the butter. “They’ll give off methane gas which will then collect in the big bubble on top and run that gas through an internal combustion engine, which is used to generate electricity,” said Michael.

Chris and Michael monitor computers displaying the digester’s kilowatt information. “The digester will create biogas which will run through an engine to create about 450 kilowatts worth of electricity which is enough to power about 350 homes in our community for a year.”

This is the third year that Noblehurst has recycled the sculpture, and they continue to recycle food waste. Here’s another farm that accepts food waste for recycling.