Food Scrap Composting at Community Gardens

A Pilot Demonstration for Neighborhood-Scale Organics Management, in partnership with Vermont Community Gardens Network (VCGN), Northeastern Recycling Council (NERC), and participating Vermont Solid Waste Management Entities (SWMEs)

First day of food scrap collection at the Ludlow Area Community Garden

This three-year pilot will develop, monitor and evaluate three small-scale (≤ 100 cy/yr of feedstocks), self-sustaining food scrap composting systems at community gardens. In year two we will draft a how-to manual based on our experience in year one, and develop outreach strategies to normalize the practice of food scrap composting. The manual will draw from and reference existing composting guides, but will focus on the challenges and opportunities specific to incorporating food scrap composting at volunteer run community gardens with rural demographics and Vermont’s climate. In year three the project will continue to: monitor the pilot sites; provide technical assistance to support expansion; continue to collect technical and anecdotal data to finalize the manual and; use the sites for outreach through VCGN to engage other gardens and the community at large.

Vermont became the first state to ban all organics from landfilling with a Universal Recycling Law, Act 148. By 2020 organic material, which makes up roughly 1/3 of the total “waste” stream must be diverted. State agencies, solid waste management entities (SWMEs), compost producers, environmental advocates and community organizations are gearing up to manage the volume of diverted material, particularly food scraps. Alternative management options are emerging as we shift from viewing organic material as “waste” to viewing it as a “resource.” Community scale composting is gaining support in Vermont. The benefits of compost to sequester carbon, improve plant health, stabilize soils, increase water retention and reduce erosion are well known. Soil and plant health are key to adapting to global warming. The organics available under the Universal Recycling Law, will, if well managed, increasingly become environmental and economic benefits for Vermonters. CAV and VCGN are working to maximize those benefits.

Overviews of our 2017 Food Scrap Composting at Community Gardens Pilot Sites:

Dropping off food scraps at the Ludlow Area Community Garden

Ludlow Area Community Garden, Ludlow, VT

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.


Natasha training compost stewards on use of Jora tumblers.

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

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.


Food scrap collection area 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.”

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