“Upcycling” describes the noble process of crafting useful products from material that would otherwise go to waste — old juice pouches, seat belts, vinyl records by bad seventies bands. It’s not a word typically applied to food. But Geneva’s Greg Woodworth and his wife, Kelly Coughlin, who aspire to run a “zero-waste” food production business, aren’t running a typical company.

Stony Brook WholeHeartedFoods began as a way to explore the viability of “reusing” butternut squash seeds from Martin Farms, a fourth-generation farm in Brockport, NY that grows thousands of acres of butternut squash, which is pre-cut for sale in grocery stores. All that squash generates a lot of seed that was previously being composted or fed to cattle. Greg and Kelly had the inspired idea that they might transform it into culinary oil.

With the help of Cornell’s Food Venture Center, also based in Geneva, they discovered they could. An expeller press does the trick. “We found a local, sustainable, viable alternative to olive oil,” Greg said. The results piqued the interest of both amateur and restaurant chefs, and have garnered accolades from publications like bon appétit and The New York Times.
Further experiments with squash seed oils led Kelly and Greg to the hull-less pumpkin, a variety grown specifically for their seeds (see below). Martin Farms has become one of the few commercial growers of the crop in the US, growing 100 acres of pumpkins exclusively for Stony Brook to process into pepitas and oil — both sold in GreenStar’s West End Grocery Department. Other area farms supply sunflower and organic flax seeds for pressing into oils, which are available in the West End store’s Bulk Department.

Seed oils and snacks form the heart of Stony Brook’s business, with seed flours being added as the next phase in taking the company closer to their goal of generating zero waste. “When we’re done pressing the seeds for oil, we mill what’s left,” Greg explained. The result is gluten-free, nutrition-filled flour — look for the organic flax seed flour in the West End Bulk Department.

“GreenStar was one of our first customers,” Greg said. “Kelly and I are members of the Co-op — we like to identify where our food comes from, who the growers are, how it’s sourced and treated. It’s the same approach that we use in the production of our oils.”

By Kristie Snyder, GreenStar staff