Happier Cows Make More Milk: The Fight to Save Small Farms

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Can technology save small-scale agriculture? Big Burrito Restaurant Group corporate chef Bill Fuller and Rivendale Farms general manager Christine Grady join hosts Debbie and Billy Shore from their hometown of Pittsburgh to talk about food and the future of sustainable agriculture. Grady describes robotic milking systems that allow for 15% more milk from less-stressed cows. “If the cows are getting anxious, that affects the yield and the quality of the milk,” she says. Fuller was on the cutting edge of the sustainable food movement in Pittsburgh twenty years ago. “It was great to watch this transition and transformation and ride along with it. It was really sort of beautiful,” he says.

“So many aspects of our community start to unravel and fray as a result of the disappearance of small farms,” observes Billy Shore. Fuller asks Grady, “Farmers in general are really conservative and slow to change. What are your thoughts on getting farmers to adopt the new technology?” Grady responds that the key may be young farmers. “One of the things that’s incredibly important is to attract the younger generation into farming… You actually need to attract a new workforce that is more interested in looking how to innovate,” she explains.

Listen to this important conversation about the confluence of technology, innovation and sustainability.

Resources and Mentions:

Bill Fuller

The corporate chef for Big Burrito Restaurant Group in Pittsburgh, PA. Fuller began his career in Washington DC as a line cook while studying for his B.S. in Chemistry at George Mason University. He abandoned his scientific pursuits, trading his lab coat for a chef’s jacket. Bill eventually made his way back to Pittsburgh and into the kitchens of big Burrito restaurants, and has served as the Corporate Chef since 1997. Fuller has been awarded both Chef of the Year and Restaurateur of the Year from Pittsburgh Magazine, in addition to sharing in the numerous awards received by the restaurants he oversees. He is dedicated to developing relationships with individual local farmers and publicly speaking on the benefits of locally farmed foods. Fuller actively supports the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and acts as an advisor to the culinary program for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Christine Grady

The general manager of Rivendale Farms in Pittsburgh, PA. Before joining Rivendale, Grady worked with the United Way to develop a pilot program delivering fresh, healthy foods to underserved communities in Pittsburgh. Born in Sydney, Australia, as the daughter of a diplomat, Christine grew up living around the world, including Senegal, Gabon, Turkey and England.

No Kid Hungry

Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.

Big Burrito Restaurant Group

Includes seven restaurants in Pittsburgh, PA, Alta Via, Casbah, Eleven, Kaya, Soba, Umi, and Mad Mex, which includes locations throughout Pennsylvania, as well as a full-service catering business. It is often credited with jump-starting Pittsburgh’s local food scene. The company employs approximately 850 people, and the restaurants feed tens of thousands every year. Big Burrito was an early supporter of Grow Pittsburgh, a nonprofit founded in 2005 that promotes urban agriculture and works to connect communities with gardens and farms.

Rivendale Farms

A local farm in Washington County, PA that aims for excellence in combining natural, sustainable farming with innovative techniques and technology. They farm respectfully on the land, use sustainable techniques, and collaborate with some of the world’s smartest growers to ensure the long-term health and vitality of the farm. They’re committed to growing and rising the most natural, delicious ingredients with the simplest root from farm to table. They also utilize new, state-of-the-art technologies and techniques to improve and enhance this process, such as robotic milking systems and unique mobile solar-powered chicken sheds.

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