Event Recap: Composting Panel

Junkyard beer accompanied our panel perfectly.

Junkyard beer accompanied our panel perfectly.

There was beer from Junkyard. There were three knowledgable community rockstars. And there was a great conversation about composting.

Ugly Food of the North’s February event was a community panel discussing the basics of composting, how to do it in small spaces, winter composting (because we live in Fargo-Moorhead after all), and how to build your own compost bin. A full house joined Ugly Food of the North at The Rourke Art Museum in Moorhead to hear insights from three local composting experts.

While we hate the idea of any food being wasted, we know some waste is inevitable. So what do you do with food scraps like apple cores or banana peels?

Composting is the decomposition of leaves, grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, and other organic waste by bacteria, fungi, worms, and other organisms. These organisms feed on this organic material and break it down into simpler organic compounds. Composting has been shown to introduce important nutrients into soil and prevent excess waste from building up in landfills.

Attendees even brought us food scraps for a composting demo!

Attendees even brought us food scraps for a composting demo!

Stephanie Reynolds (Clay County Solid Waste) shared the basics of composting and detailed the importance of balancing green material (grass clippings, fruits and vegetables and coffee grounds) to brown material (paper, cardboard, newspaper and dead leaves). The proper ratio of brown to green is key to produce the right carbon to nitrogen ratio. The decomposition of organic material (the goal of composting) is greatly increased when you have the proper balance between these materials. Reynolds shared that research shows compost that has a ratio of 30 parts carbon (brown materials) to 1-part nitrogen (green materials) is best. Also, it is important to regularly turn your compost pile; about once a week.

Takeaway: make sure you balance your brown to green material for optimal compost & turn the pile regularly.

Peter Schultz (Longspur Prairie Fund) shared great strategies to keep compost working in the winter. In order for bacteria to keep doing their job breaking down organic material, they must be warm. And when temperatures reach subzero these microorganisms are not able to do their job. Therefore, to keep compost brewing in the winter, you need to find or retain heat. Some of Peter’s advice to capture the heat: make a bigger compost pile, surround piles with straw bales, or heaping snow around the bin. Or if you’re not too concerned about keeping the compost working, you can just keep adding materials to the pile throughout the winter, let it freeze, and wait until the spring thaw for it to begin breaking down again.

Takeaway: you can continue to add food scraps to your compost in winter!

Finally, Jessica Creuzer (River Keepers) shared great facts and tips about composting and also ideas to build your own compost bin. Did you know that if you recycled everything you can recycle and compost everything you can compost, you can reduce personal waste by up to 80%? River Keepers teaches a class each year about how to make your own compost bin and provides many suggestions for the types of structures that work best for composting and are inexpensive. Watch their website for the upcoming classes.

Takeaway: River Keepers has some great community programs. Check them out for hands-on classes on sustainable living.

Some exciting news: Stephanie Reynolds shared that the City of Moorhead/Clay County Solid Waste are working with Full Circle Organics to set up a new organics composter in Clay County.  If you would like to hear more about this new composting possibility for our community, check out the Cass Clay Food Systems Advisory Commission on March 9, 10:30 a.m. at Fargo City Hall.