Posts Tagged ‘surplus’

Photo: Anna Kusmer
An old Estey Organ Company factory space filled with donated reed organs.

Here is something the internet should be perfect for: finding the unusual person somewhere in the world who would like nothing better than to give new life to an old reed organ. There don’t seem to be too many such enthusiasts in the vicinity of the old Estey Organ Company in Vermont.

Anna Kusmer writes at Atlas Obscura, “In its heyday, the Estey Organ Company factory was the beating, bleating heart of Brattleboro, Vermont. It produced more than half a million organs in total and, at its peak, employed more than 500 people. On a fateful day in 1960, however, the assembly lines shut down and workers departed. After nearly a century in operation, the organ factory had gone silent.

“And then, like the most improbable boomerangs, the organs started coming back.

“Families with old, unwanted Estey organs started to donate them, one by one, to the Brattleboro Historical Society. First a few, then a few more, and the organs kept coming. Over the years, hundreds of organs have made their way back home. At first, the historical society was at a loss for what to do with them all.

“In 2002, the society chose the most interesting and playable organs and opened the Estey Organ Museum on the premises of the old factory. …

“Beyond the museum, since the 1970s, the Brattleboro Historical Society amassed what might be the largest organ collection in the world, at around 200 instruments. The majority are stored in other adjacent factory buildings owned by Barbara George, a historic preservationist and longtime Brattleboro resident.

“ ‘In a way, it’s my fault that we have all these organs,’ says George. She was generous with the old factory space, which at first provided ample room. But after years of accepting any and all organ donations, many of the buildings began to fill up. It was a unique predicament for any local society. …

“ ‘They’re a curse,’ George says, only half-joking. Today, the museum only accepts donated organs in perfect working condition, or rare or unusual examples. But this hasn’t completely stopped the tide. On a couple of occasions, organs have been anonymously left outside the door of the museum. ‘In the museum world, we call that a “drive-by donation,” ‘ says George. …


“Rock ‘n’ roll and the rise of electric instruments, however, did the old organs in. … However, the instrument is still occasionally found in contemporary music—John Lennon and Nico were fans.

“Collecting so many of them, in one place, was never George’s plan. ‘The mission of the museum is to promote continued use and enjoyment. They’re certainly not doing anyone any good in here,’ she says. …

“ ‘People don’t want them,’ says George, ‘but they also don’t want to throw them away.’

“Brattleboro’s best bet for its tidal wave of busted organs is to raise awareness about just how many they have, so they can find people willing to breathe new life into them. Says George, ‘We’d most like to see a reed organ revival.’ ” More history and some great pictures here.

Any takers out there? I’ll bet KerryCan knows a likely reed-organ lover.

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Photo: Daily Table
Fresh surplus food is sold for less, with help from a distribution platform called Spoiler Alert.

A logistics company that moves unwanted, unneeded but perfectly fresh food to people who do want and need it has chosen the perfect Internet slang for its name: Spoiler Alert. Ordinarily, “spoiler alert” is what you say if you are recommending or reviewing a film or book and don’t want to spoil the ending for someone else. In this case, it’s about delivering fresh food where it’s needed before it spoils.

Janelle Nanos writes at the Boston Globe, “Spoiled food is a costly problem, accounting for about $218 billion in financial losses to US farms, businesses, and consumers each year, according to ReFED, a group of companies, nonprofits, and foundations that was formed last year to minimize food waste. Since its launch in 2015, Spoiler Alert’s food-matching platform has been adopted by 200 businesses and nonprofits in New England to cut down on waste and encourage donations by making them easier to track.

“The company was created by two MIT Sloan School of Management graduates, Ricky Ashenfelter and Emily Malina, and their chief technology officer, Marty Sirkin, and has worked its way through the city’s accelerator programs, winning $50,000 from MassChallenge in 2015 and a spot in this year’s Techstars Boston cohort. …

” ‘At Daily Table I like to think of Spoiler Alert as an opportunity to further meet our mission of capturing healthy, tasty products before they make it to compost or trash,’ said Ismail Samad, executive chef of the Dorchester grocery store, which sells food and prepared meals gleaned from donations. He said he relies heavily on Spoiler Alert to source the food for his store shelves.

“But part of Spoiler Alert’s recent success can be credited to another, rather wonky aspect of its platform, which helps companies navigate the tax code. [In December 2015], Congress passed a bill that expanded the tax breaks companies can receive for donating food, making it easier for small businesses to donate and for farmers to assess the fair market value of their inventories.” Read how it all comes together, here.

A nonprofit organization that is also a MassChallenge winner and does similar work in the region is Lovin’ Spoonfuls, which I blogged about here. MassChallenge is a startup accelerator that helps new companies get launched. Its judges are partial to companies that can do well by doing good, bless their hearts.

Photo: Lovin’ Spoonfuls
Lovin’ Spoonfuls donates food to Safe Haven, a housing program run by the Bedford (MA) Veterans Administration.

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