CAV & VCGN Launch Community Composting Pilot at 3 Sites

The Composting Association of Vermont (CAV) and Vermont Community Garden Network (VCGN) are helping Ludlow Area Community Garden (Ludlow), Down to Earth Community Garden (St. Albans), and The Garden at 485 Elm (Montpelier) to try out community food scrap composting. All three projects are a part of a new pilot project—Food Scrap Composting at Community Gardens—focused on diverting food scraps from the landfill, generating rich compost, and educating communities about composting. Additionally the project is creating educational resources and trainings for small-scale community composting operations (see details below for details on our Oct. 14 training), so that similar groups around the state and region can learn from the project and grow the movement.

According to Natasha Duarte, CAV’s Director, “The three gardens have different levels of experience with food scrap composting and are located in different settings – from very rural to a more populated area with close neighbors. This pilot is a great opportunity to identify the different types of challenges that community groups face in designing and managing composting systems. The gardens’ commitment to the project, and to building in robust educational and outreach opportunities for their wider communities has been inspiring.”

This project was born out of conversations started with the passing of Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law, Act 148. In light of this law, individuals and communities are seeking solutions for managing food scraps and yard waste that meet its requirements and utilize these materials for local value. The law bans recyclables, food scraps and yard trimmings from the landfill, with phased requirements, starting with the larger food scrap generators in 2014 and ending with a total ban on food scraps from the landfill by 2020.

Composting is seen as one viable solution, whether through hauling to a regional waste management facility, starting backyard composting, or establishing community-based composting operations. Diverse solutions and unique collaborations are needed to address this issue in our variable Vermont landscapes. The partnership between CAV and VCGN works to address: 1) the need for community food scrap drop off sites; 2) the desire by garden communities to make use of the valuable resource of compost made locally; 3) the potential for community education on composting, utilizing sites where people already gather and learn.

CAV and VCGN are also partnering with the Northeast Recycling Council, select Solid Waste Management Districts, and New England Grassroots Environment Fund to bring technical expertise, training support, funding, and materials donations to the pilot project. Launched in summer 2017, the three-year pilot project will develop, monitor and evaluate small-scale (≤ 100 cubic yards/year of feedstocks), self-sustaining food scrap composting systems at community gardens. Selected groups receive funding, technical assistance and training to start or improve their food scrap composting system.

A quick snapshot of our 2017 Food Scrap Composting at Community Gardens Pilot Sites:

Ludlow Area Community Garden, Ludlow, VT

First food scrap drop-off day at Ludlow Area Community Garden.

Tucked away behind the Fletcher Farm School of Arts and Crafts, the garden serves a diverse range of community members, providing garden space and education for individuals, families, and youth program participants, as well as regularly hosting visitors from local community programs. In keeping with the garden’s focus on strong community outreach and hands-on learning opportunities, their improved compost system features three different types of compost bins—tumblers, an Aero bin, and a 3-bin system—to provide a variety of educational models for food scrap composting. Additionally, the group broadened the reach of the project off-site by supporting the use of tumblers at a local youth center and Ludlow Elementary School.

Down to Earth Community Garden, St. Alban’s City, VT

Natasha training compost stewards at Down to Earth Community Garden on use of Jora tumblers.

This garden provides individual growing space for community members, while promoting communal learning about safe, sustainable fruit and vegetable gardening. Located on elementary school property, the community garden shares space with the school’s farm-to-school program as well as the local Montessori school. Both the community garden and school have started composting food scraps this year using insulated Jora tumblers. This new system provides gardeners with an efficient way to create rich compost for the garden, while diverting food scraps from the landfill.

Compost signage at The Garden at 485 Elm.

The Garden at 485 Elm, Montpelier, VT

The Garden at 485 Elm is an all-volunteer community that supports up to 25 households who collaborate to grow fresh, organic food together. The garden grows on the private homestead of the co-managers, Sheryl Rapee-Adams and Chris Adams, a short walking distance from downtown Montpelier. Through the pilot, the group is improving their current composting system to accept and process food scraps through the winter months with better efficiency, and incorporate best practices to foster positive relationships with neighbors. In addition to providing a site for food scrap drop off, generating rich compost for use in the garden, and offering compost education to the broader community, Sheryl and Chris see the site as a model “to inspire other landowners to maximize their properties for community-scale interdependence.”

For more on this project, check out this article, The Middle Ground, from Resource Recycling Magazine.

Interested in starting small-scale food scrap composting at your community site?

Give us a call to see if there are any educational or grant opportunities coming up! Contact Libby, or call (802) 861-4769.

The Food Scrap Composting at Community Gardens Pilot Project is made possible with funding from the High Meadows Fund, Grassroots Fund, a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, the Bay and Paul Foundations, and participating Solid Waste Management Entities.

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