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Food Waste Composting

In 1998, The Berea College Farm began a food composting program. This program was a great way to utilize food waste from the Dining Hall while also creating a reliable organic fertilizer source for the Horticulture Enterprise.

For decades, compost was produced at the Horticulture Farm and finished compost was used as fertilizer and a potting media for fruit, vegetable and house plant production. More recently, compost production has moved to the other part of the Farm enterprise.

Although the location of food composting has changed, the process has stayed the same. Students make daily trips to the Dining Hall, Farm Store, and Boone Tavern to collect buckets of food waste. The buckets are taken back to the Farm and emptied into designated piles. Students cover the food waste with carbon-rich material, such as straw produced on the Farm. Bacteria, earthworms, and other organisms break down the food waste, and after several months, a useable product is available.

After many years of the food composting program, the College Horticulture Farm still has a significant amount of finished compost to use in production. At the new location, the finished product is spread on pasture and row cropland as a fertilizer. This ensures that the program will continue to provide nutrient recycling and produce a low input soil amendment.

Students shoveling and sifting compost

By the Numbers

From 2017 to 2018, The Farm used more than 71 tons of compost from wood chips and food waste to raise vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers.

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