Summer 2009 Compost Data
- The hotter a compost pile is, the faster the food scraps are decomposing. The heat creates an ideal environment for the microbes, bacteria and worms that break down our kitchen scraps into a fertilizing manure for the farm. This compost heat graph shows how successful our compost program was this summer.
- Compost in Bay 2 is earlier in its decomposition process, therefore its temperature remains fairly steady as the process gets up and running.
- Compost in Bay 3 is at the height of its decomposition process, and towards the end of the summer it is almost done decomposing, so its temperature graph falls as the reaction cools down.
The Compost Process
1) Pick Up Food Scraps: Pick up compost from the dinning hall and the kitchen after both lunch and dinner. The compost in the dinning hall will be by the dish washing window, and the kitchen compost will either be in the kitchen or on the back dock. The compost must be taken out after every meal because animals will get into the compost and the food will begin to rot -- both of which are health hazards. If the compost does not get taken out twice a day then we risk losing the composting program.
2) Weigh Food Scraps: Before you take the compost down to the farm, weigh and record the weight of the compost. To do so, take the compost from the dinning hall and kitchen to the back dock. On the back dock, pull out the compost scale from inside a cabinet on the back dock. The scale sits on a shelf below the fan. Weigh each compost bucket and record the weights on the clipboard that hangs next to the dishwashing window. Be sure to distinguish the kitchen scraps from the dinning hall scraps. By weighing the compost daily we will be able to show how much food waste we saved from entering a landfill.
3) Transport Food Scraps: Transport the compost down to the farm using the metal pull cart that is parked outside the kitchen's back dock.
4) Measure Compost Temperature: Before adding new compost to the second bay, measure and record the temperature of the second and third compost bay. The thermometer hangs on the left of the first bay next to the clip board. Put the thermometer into the second bay, waiting a few moments for the needle to stop moving, and record the temperature on the clipboard. Repeat temperature measuring with the third bay as well. By measuring the temperature of the compost we are able to determine how quickly food is decomposing and when to turn the pile. This record helps us improve our composting techniques.
5) Adding New Food to the Compost: After recording the compost temperatures, spread the new food scraps evenly over the second bay. Next, spread sawdust, hay, or leaves to the compost to create a balance between "brown" and "green" waste that allows proper decomposition. By adding in "brown" material, the compost pile will not smell like rotting food. Using the pitchfork that hangs above the compost, mix the new food waste and sawdust into the compost pile to activate the pile. Mixing the pile will speed up the composting process, giving us ready to use compost earlier, and discourage animals from eating the compost.
6) Clean Up: After adding new scraps to the compost pile, take the empty trash cans up to the dinning hall on the compost cart. Once at the dinning hall, rinse the trash cans (either in the kitchen or in the kitchen's basement). After the trash-cans are rinsed stack them upside-down on the kitchen's back dock. Then park the compost cart next to the building.
What to compost?
Compost all food scraps except large quantities of meat or poultry. Napkins are fine, cups and plastic silverware are not.
Marlboro College has composted for many years yet without consistency or formal procedural guidelines. Here I will sketch out the college composting history and process to aide future students with continuing the composting tradition. This should be updated as the processes or expectations change.
The composting structure had been an 8x12 feet plot divided into six sections for different composting piles. The system had gates, dividers, and covers, and worked well--but was later seen as too user intensive. The Fall 2008 Farm Committee decided to add onto the original structure to allow more square footage for composting--and scratch part of the previous design. We extended the structure 16 feet wide. In the addition, farm committee members divided the space into four bays and built a roof. The most difficult part of composting at the college is getting the compost to the farm. Over the last few years, one of the Environmental Quality Committee members would walk a few 5 gallon buckets full of compost down to the farm. The college paid these committee members. The system seemed to work well except it only composted student's scrap food waste, and it ignored any food waste in the kitchen.
In the Fall 2008 semester, the Farm Committee collaborated with volunteer students and the kitchen staff to begin composting all the kitchen's waste: preparation and leftovers. Students began composting all the kitchen's scraps after an inspiring discussion between students at the Intentional Conversations. Students wanted the kitchen to waste less and increase the food quality by buying organic. Two students organized a volunteer base of over 20 community members to take compost to the farm. The volunteers consisted of students and faculty and staff. The previously paid member of the Environmental Quality Committee became the overseer of the project.
They soon realized that oversight was necessary because community members often forgot or disregarded their shift, and thus the compost didn't get taken out. In our agreement with the kitchen staff, we swore that compost wouldn't ever be left on the back dock overnight. Thus oversight became essential.
The EQC, Farm, and Food Committee members didn't sufficiently train students how to pour new compost into the pile. We need to train students at the beginning of the semester on how to properly compost. Also, it might be helpful to encourage EQC, Farm, and Food Committee members to volunteer weekly with composting. With more reliable community members involved in the weekly composting we can probably raise the group's competence. Also, the pile must be turned regularly. Early on, only Farm Committee members turned the compost. But it should be further integrated into the volunteers' habits. A Monthly Turning Event could bring people to the farm, educate them on the composting process, and encourage further involvement with the farm, environment, and food activities.
How to use the compost:
The Composting Process Students should always pour compost into the furthest left bay. Once one month has passed, it should be pured into the second bay. And after another month, it should be poured into the third bay, while moving the new first bay to the second bay. Eventually the compost will reach the fourth bay where it will sit until Springtime when compost should be applied to the garden. Most likely the fourth bay won't ever fill because with each bay transfer--and during the composting process in general--the compost decreases in square footage.
(the above written by Kenny Card 1-13-09)
http://cwmi.css.cornell.edu/smallscalecomposting.htm http://wasteage.com/mag/waste_smallscale_composting_operators/ http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/freeform/slomg/documents/Garden_Practices3889.htm http://extensionpubs.umext.maine.edu/ePOS/form=robots/item.html&item_number=1140&store=413&design=413 http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/farmcompost.html http://www.pollutionissues.com/Co-Ea/Composting.html
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