Organics collection and composting crosses several areas of interest in the community and a strong coalition of these diverse interests will help expand local composting efforts. The local farming and horticultural community and other marketers and users of the end-use compost are must-have support and essential in making the case for why returning organics to our soils is such a critical need. Environmental interests, from water conservation districts to climate policymakers, can weigh in on the negative effects of our current system of wasting and the vast ecological benefits of composting. Organics composting also connects people back to the land, engages with localization efforts, and creates jobs. It’s a cause a lot of people can get behind, and here are some tips on how to find these groups.
American Farm Bureau
Farm Bureau is an independent, non-governmental, voluntary organization governed by and representing farm and ranch families united for the purpose of analyzing their problems and formulating action to achieve educational improvement, economic opportunity and social advancement and, thereby, to promote the national well-being. Farm Bureau is local, county, state, national and international in its scope and influence and is non-partisan, non-sectarian and non-secret in character. Farm Bureau is the voice of agricultural producers at all levels. Active state farm bureaus are located in all fifty states; find your local bureau.
Dairies are a good resource for understanding the state and local regulatory climate for composting. Many states have state dairy associations or councils. Find a list of industry associations by state.
There are more than 4300 farmers markets throughout the U.S. providing locally grown food and educating shoppers on the connection between food and farm. Some markets may have a listserv connecting friends and advocates of local farming interests. Find a farmers market in your area.
National Farmers Union (NFU)
With a membership of 250,000 farm and ranch families, the National Farmers Union (NFU) protects and enhances the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers and ranchers and their rural communities. NFU represents farmers and ranchers in all states, with organized chapters in 32 states. Find your local chapter.
Organic Certifying Agents
While organic foods are certified at the national level by the USDA, certifying agents and agencies are distributed throughout the country. These agencies will be acquainted with growers throughout the area, the needs of the soil, and the potential applications for soil amendments. Find an organic certifying agency in your area.
American Nursery and Landscape Association
The American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) is the national trade association of the nursery and landscape industry. ANLA provides education, research, public relations, and representation services to firms who grow, sell, or use plants. Find local members.
American Public Gardeners Association
American Public Gardeners Association serves and strengthens public gardens throughout North America by supporting and promoting their work, value and achievements in horticultural display, education, research and plant conservation. APGA believes public gardens are vital to people’s appreciation and understanding of the irreplaceable value of plants. Connect with one of the more than 500 institutions.
Community gardens benefit both urban and rural settings by “providing a catalyst for neighborhood and community development, stimulating social interaction, encouraging self-reliance, beautifying neighborhoods, producing nutritious food, reducing family food budgets, conserving resources and creating opportunities for recreation, exercise, therapy and education.” Community gardeners have already recognized the connection between healthy soils and healthy foods, and the gardens are a great showcase for local compost products. Find a community garden near you or learn more about starting one.
Cooperative Extension Office
Each U.S. state and territory has a state office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices that provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes. Find your local cooperative extension office. This office may also coordinate master composter programs in your area so be sure to ask.
Ecological Landscaping Association
The Ecological Landscaping Association is a nonprofit, member-based organization of landscape professionals, homeowners, and community groups who believe in using landscape practices that are environmentally safe and beneficial. ELA was founded in 1992 by a group of forward-thinking landscape professionals to bring about change in landscaping practices through educating landscape professionals and the public, and to provide networking opportunities, so that people concerned about the environment could exchange ideas and experiences with others who share their concerns. Find local members.
Municipal or Institutional Landscaping Departments
These departments are potential partners on two fronts: first, as large-scale generators of organic materials and, second, as large-scale purchasers of mulch products and soil amendments. These departments may be community examples of onsite organic management or be able to supply baseline quantities of materials to local composting operations. On the demand side, these users may have sufficient needs for soil amendment, enough to provide a stable foundation for a local composting facility, and may help drive the local market as a demonstration of how well the products work. Check with your local municipal and county governments, as well as other large local institutions, about their current organics management practices.
National Association of Conservation Districts
The use of compost or mulch in arid or drought-stricken areas can reduce outdoor watering needs by increasing water retention within the soil. Your local water conservation district can be an important partner in creating markets for compost products by requiring or creating incentives for the use of soil amendments in new construction or landscaping projects. Find a conservation district near you.
Relocalization is “a strategy to build societies based on the local production of food, energy and goods, and the local development of currency, governance and culture.” Building and sustaining high-quality local soils is paramount to the production of local food supplies, making efforts to divert organics from the landfill and back into local soils a natural fit for this movement. Importing soil amendments, natural or synthetic, when nearby nutrients go to waste in a landfill, is contrary to the notion of a local economy. Relocalization efforts surrounding local food production may include the promotion of farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA), urban or community garden plots, and choosing seasonal foods. Find a relocation group in your area or learn more about starting one.
Large cafeterias and food preparation areas should be considered initial targets for food waste collections because of the large organic portion of their waste stream, and elementary and secondary schools should not be overlooked in this category. These venues offer the secondary benefit of a greater opportunity for community education than restaurant settings when the entire school community is engaged. For information on how to start a school garden, check out the California School Garden Network or find more resources at http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Education/Gardens/default.htm. View Eco-Cycle’s Green Star Schools program to see how composting collection integrates with other Zero Waste initiatives in the school community.