Spring Creek Natural Foods

The Spring Creek Soy Dairy was initiated in 1979 as a worker-owned enterprise by a few aficionados living around Spencer, WV.
The Spring Creek Soy Dairy was initiated in 1979 as a worker-owned enterprise by a few aficionados living around Spencer, WV.

The Spring Creek Soy Dairy was initiated in 1979 as a worker-owned enterprise by a few aficionados living around Spencer, WV. I was one of them for a couple years in the mid-80s. By the time I again became interested in the business in ‘96, it had survived innumerable business crises and years of little or no profit; there had been a name change, a move to a larger building in town, the calving of a CSA, upgrading of much equipment, and many multiple changeovers of all but two participants. All soybeans had been provided by Ohio’s premier organic soy grower for more than 10 years and Spring Creek had become a name for quality tofu products throughout the region.

I envisioned moving Spring Creek out of town where it would provide a financial cornerstone and serve as an entry point for large quantities of organic resources, while providing a model of an integrated, biological production system. The tofu production operation would expand within appropriate buildings set into the south-facing aspect of a hillside. Water for the operation would be largely harvested from the land. (Ideally, the land would include the head of a small hollow which could hold a large pond.) All effluent waters from the tofu production area would first flow through a series of biological filters and productive facilities within a series of greenhouses continuing along the contour. Waters would then flow into a series of channels/lagoons, also built with recognition of hillside contours (some terracing would likely have been necessary), for the production of aquatic plants and animals. Finally, the water would irrigate and fertilize organic gardens.

Okara is the pulp remaining after soy milk is separated from ground and cooked soybeans: it includes hulls and insoluble proteins. While okara provides the primary component for Spring Creek’s high-fiber, high-protein soysage patties, there has always been an overabundance. Fresh okara makes an excellent livestock feed, but it sours fairly quickly. The bulk of Spring Creek’s okara is usually distributed to folks raising cattle, pigs, chickens, llamas and other animals. Soured okara can be spread on gardens where it provides an excellent fertilizing soil amendment.

Organic materials recycling at the greater Spring Creek which I was advocating would include direct feeding of okara to livestock on site and then digestion of all livestock bedding and manures. Nutrient rich liquids (supernatant) from digestion would feed into the production lagoons and the solids would have gone to the greenhouse and garden soils.

Through this system, there would have been full liquid and solid/nutrient and organic matter recycling and close to zero water and organic materials wastes. Organic materials incorporated into garden soils would have steadily increased tilth. The biogas produced from livestock residues and profuse, unmarketable aquatic production would have provided some of the operations’ process energy. Transportation energy would still have been necessary for import of Ohio soybeans and other goods required for production as well as for product distribution, but building energy requirements would have been minimized by ecological construction. Given the buildings’ east-west orientation, solar electricity would have been convenient to install. Spring Creek would have been able to offer a broad range of organically produced animal products, aquatic plants and animals, and garden produce to supplement the fine line of tofus and other soy-based products.

In pursuit of all this, in ‘97, I became a 1/3rd “owner” of a once-again-reconfigured Spring Creek. I went so far as to commission work on my ideas by some professionals {The link here is to the Living Tech.pdf file attached to the email with this installment. (I did have an earlier version but the new one is in color.)} dealing with somewhat similar situations. I also made possible the convening of an intensive day-long charette meeting with half a dozen “experts” in various aspects of the plan. Although one other 1/3rd owner did attend the session, I was never able to adequately enthuse the two of them in the over-all endeavor. Unfortunately, over several years, these differing perceptions of Spring Creek’s mission led to continuing business crises and ultimate de legere bankruptcy around 2007. However, I am happy to say that, under new management and operations, Phoenix Organics, LLC., continues to produce the Spring Creek “brand” – the finest tofus and soysage on the market.



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