I am thinking about compost. Here’s why: Ben Hewitt, farmer, writer, activist, and author of The Town That Food Saved, How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food, led a discussion up at the college recently. He admitted that rather than focussing on sustainable agriculture, he prefers to frame the food discussion around restorative agriculture. Can we farm in a way that is circular? Which is to say, can we create systems where what we put into the soil — the fertilizers, the enrichments, the compost – and what we take out of the soil – the food – are more interconnected?
How do we close the circle? Hardwick, Vermont, the town he writes about, now boasts food related businesses that run the gamut: from High Mowing Organic Seeds, to Jasper Hill Cheese, to Vermont Soy Company, to Buffalo Mountain Coop, to Pete’s Greens, to Claire’s Restaurant and Bar, to The Center fro Agricultural Economy, to Honey Garden Apiaries, to The Highfields Center for Composting. I sense a hint of a circle forming there.
But when I think about compost, I can’t help it, my mind turns to worms! That’s the tiny agricultural circle my three tenths of an acre could support.
I almost bought worms last year. I visited my friend Colleen who has a worm bin in her garage. She has composted all her food scraps in it for years. The scraps go in, and worms do their work, and the crumbly compost goes on the garden. In the winter, she keeps the bin in her garage, where the temperature is just above 50 degrees. Amazingly, it does not smell.
My friends Mike and Tawnya had worms for several years. The day their worms arrived by post, they came in to the driveway to find their mailbox dripping with red worms –they’d gotten out of their cardboard shipping box and were trying to escape.
When my friend Emily worked for the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston, she described the bins of worms in the basement of their building. The worms were eating all of the white paper waste and churning out the compost that she got to take home for her garden.
Even my Aunt Anne, who is 84, remarked one night at dinner “You know, Granny always attributed the quality of her compost to Minerva’s worms.” Minerva’s worms? Turns out Minerva was a worm farmer in Maine, and that’s where Granny ordered her red wigglers from.
Composting is tricky in our yard. The sunny spots are filled with gardens. The corners, mostly shady come summer, are where we hide our composting bins. I would like to have three piles of compost, but frankly we don’t have room. So, my theory is that a worm composting bin will introduce some efficiency into my little system; the kitchen scraps will turn into compost more quickly.
Mike and Tawnya have an extra worm tower. I am going to call them and see if I can try one out. Gotta order some worms. I wonder if Minerva is still in business….what about compost tea….