Monday, March 31, 2008

My world: Community Nutrient Systems and More Snow!

Hi folks,

It's still snowing! Here's what Vermont looks like...

I just talked to my friend Al Bushey who's got a sugarbush over in Essex. The sap is slow coming this year!

Tomorrow is the 2th Annual Vermont Organics Recycling Summit. This is put on by the Composting Association of Vermont, a nonprofit organization. I'm on the board of directors and I'll be making the opening remarks tomorrow.

I'm going to describe a concept that I have been calling Community Nutrient Systems. It doesn't seem like outside-the-box thinking because it's all very intuitive. The idea is that we, like everything else on the planet, dwell within an ecosystem that we can help sustain by recycling the nutrients in our waste stream. Looking at the waste stream at all makes most people squeamish. Calling it "our" waste stream is foreign. And then conceptualizing it as a source of nutrients that can be retrieved and put back into the soil is quite a leap, however simple. Community Nutrient Systems is an idea that I developed while managing Intervale Compost Products in Burlington, Vermont. We took all kinds of organics from the community (except biosolids), unlike most facilities which usually specialize in farm manures or municipal leaf/yard trimmings. The compost we made helped drive a thriving local food system and a robust, thoughtful gardening and ecological landscaping community. Every community needs a community-based compost facility like that.

The keynote tomorrow will be given by Malcolm Beck, author of The Secret Life of Compost. Great reading. He's basically saying that Nature knows what it's doing and should be our model for how to care for the planet. In his own words: "If you work with nature, nature will reward your efforts". I had dinner with Malcolm and his wife, Delphine, the other night and heard lots of Malcolm's compost stories, which I loved. They're from a small town near San Antonio, Texas where Malcolm was a railroad man for 32 years and together they raised a family and ran a very successful organic farm and composting business for many years. Delphine made it all possible with her incredible common sense, natural business acumen, and highly evolved ability to multi-task (i.e., run the business, the home, the garden, and mother everyone at the same time). Malcolm has written insightfully and prolifically about composting and related topics such as composting funerals and water conservation. Tomorrow he'll tell us about how composting can help to slow climate change.

In good tilth!
the compost maven



Anonymous said...

Your composting ideology is very exciting.

Maggie Jochild said...

What small town near San Antonio? Are they, by chance, part of the amazing German-immigrant organic farmer network here in Central Texas? LOVE those people.

Holly Rae Taylor said...

Hi Maggie,
I'm not sure the town they're from. The address on his website says San Antonio, so maybe they're in the outskirts?? I'll have to ask them and get back to you! But just offhand I seriously doubt they're a part of the group you described.