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The holidays are always a good time to revisit the amount of waste we generate in this country because probably at no other time during the year is more waste produced than during the holidays. Its a good reminder too that no longer is recycle the operative word but REDUCE! If we consume less, there's less energy and resources used to produce and less stuff to throw away.

NPR's Science Friday with Ira Flatow had a great interview this past Friday, November 23rd about the amount of food wasted in the United States. Here is a link to the podcast. On the show was Dana Gunders, Project Scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland.

Over 40% of the food produced in the US gets thrown away and only 3% of it gets recycled or composted .When you consider that 50% of the land in the US is in agricultural production, we are squandering a lot land not to mention a lot of food. In the process, we are exploiting the natural resources used to produce that food such as fossil fuels for farm equipment, water for irrigation and soil fertility. And with water becoming a finite resource, its scary to think that 80% of the water used in this country goes to growing food.

To bring that into perspective, Project Scientist, Dana Gunders, made a great reference point, "Throwing away half a hamburger is equivalent to taking a one hour shower for the amount of water needed to produce that half a hamburger." Jonathan followed that up with another staggering statistic, "The amount of food wasted each year in the United Sates could fill up Crater Lake twice...TWICE!!

Food gets wasted at every step along the supply chain starting on the farm then at the grocery store and in our homes. On the Farm, food goes unharvested in the fields either because there was a surplus with no buyer or the price per bushel is too low to make it financially feasible to harvest. In the grocery store, tons of food gets thrown away each day simply because it has past a "suggested" Best If Used By date. Documentaries like DIVE expose this wasteful scenario and the dumpster divers who feed their families "well" off this trash but also rescue it for food banks and pantries. And we know all too well the amount of food that we each waste in our own homes. We buy in bulk because it is a good deal and then it goes bad in our refrigerators. And we don't plan meals properly. We buy a bunch of carrots when we only need one or buy a bunch of cilantro for one recipe but don't find a recipe later in the week which will use up the rest of the cilantro.

We are all trying to save money. But before we say we can't afford organic, think about all the money we are throwing away in the food we buy. Over $165 billion dollars gets thrown away each year in the United States. With food costs rising, consumers need to be more conscious, grocery stores need to be more thoughtful in how they transition expired food and our agricultural  industry needs to efficiently manage their land and water resources.

In this context, when we talk about feeding the world, we don't have to look much further than the end of our forks!

 
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I had the fortune of attending a gardening workshop this past weekend in Pagosa Springs, CO where the Growing Domes are manufactured. It was wonderful to meet the designers of this amazing 4-season growing structure and fellow dome owners. When Udgar and Puja Parsons brought their business, Growing Spaces, to Pagosa Springs 17 years ago, they were the first dome. Now there are over 80 in the greater Pagosa area making it the mecca for geodesic greenhouses. It is more than just an impressive number, it demonstrates a mountain community' self-reliance and ability to grow their own food year-round.

Leading the workshop was permaculturist, Jerome Ostenowski with the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute in Basalt, CO. Jerome had us up and out of our chairs in under an hour digging in the dirt and planting tropical plants of banana and papaya in Growing Spaces newest dome demo. These "Growing Spaces" are so amazing that you can grow tropical plants in the mountain climates!

Before the trees went in the ground, we had to "make the bed" using a fascinating and simplistic method called "sheet mulching." Some people call it a "lasagna bed" because you create a soil profile by layering a combination of organic materials alternating layers between browns (carbon) and greens (nitrogen). There are different theories on what ingredients you can use. Some allow newspaper and cardboard as a brown, carbon source. But for this exercise, we are going to keep it strictly organic. Sheet mulching is not only fun and easy but reduces the cost of buying a whole truckload of gardening soil. Many of the items can be sourced from your own yard (grass clippings, green manure) or acquired for FREE from local sources (composted manure and straw).

Above is a diagram I wrote in my notebook as the layers went into the bed. You can see how you start with a bulky carbon source on the bottom and begin stacking 3-4" layers repeating the process every 4-5 layers till the bed is full. Give the stacking a good soak every four layers too. Get rev up the mA few tips:
  1. Composted manure - composted manure means it is mature livestock poop and has been sitting for at least 3-years. It ensures that all the weed seeds have died and other bacterias have as well. You can find this locally from a farm. Try and get horse or chicken manure. And if unsuccessful, you can buy bags of chicken manure at a local plant nursery.
  2. Grass clippings - use clean grass clippings without a lot of other debris and that has not been treated with synthetic, chemical fertilizers
  3. Green Manure - this is yard and garden trimmings. It could be tall grasses from the side yard or discarded plant residue from the garden. Just be sure to not grab grasses that have gone to seed.
  4. Worms - you can order worms online or buy locally at a nursery. Best to get composting red worms versus earthworms. 
  5. Soil/compost - Buy good organic soil or compost versus native soil but native soil is fine too because it will be so well amended with all the other ingredients.
Next time you go to build a raised, garden bed, give sheet mulching a try and give your wallet a rest!



 
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Here is the last in a series of articles that recently ran in the Spring 2012 issue of Edible Reno-Tahoe. When I was first assigned this story, it seemed pretty cut and dry, a discrepancy between Waste Management and one of their commercial customers. But when I would talk to one person, their story wouldn't corroborate with the person before so I kept looping back and that would lead me to someone else. It quickly became an investigative report. After my fifth call back to some people, they commented, "You probably didn't know what you were unearthing when you accepted this story, huh?" No, but I enjoyed unraveling the knot and piecing the puzzle together. Here is the first part of the story but for the complete version, click here.

When managers at Great Basin Brewing Company in Reno, NV contracted with Castaway Trash Hauling to take its food and beverage waste to RT Donovan Company's regional composting facility in Sparks, it seemed to be an appropriate business-to-business move. But when Waste Management of Reno got wind of the transaction it called into question, "Who owns the garbage?" Leaders at such environmentally friendly businesses as Great Basin Brewing are conscious of the byproduct their services generate. Great Basin, for one, constantly is looking for ways to recycle as much waste as possible.

"We currently recycle between 93 to 95 percent of our waste," says Tom Young, owner of Great Basin Brewing in Reno and Sparks. "And we are investigating ways to reduce that even further."

But when Great Basin Brewing managers first contacted Waste Management officials to manage their organic waste back in the summer of 2010, Waste Management officials were not set up to service such a small account. That did not change the fact that the Great Basin folks still wanted to compost their organic waste. They needed an alternative and looked to Castaway in Sparks to do the job.

Read the rest of the article online at Edible Reno-Tahoe, click here:

 
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Me showing off my notes for worm composting!
When I first arrived back into Tahoe last fall after being on tour for my independent study, I met with the editor for Edible Reno-Tahoe magazine, Amanda Burden. When she asked if I wanted to do a few articles dealing with compost, I thought maybe I was wearing a sign on my forehead that says, "I love compost!" She must have read my blog to know my obsession. Regardless, I jumped at the chance. Here is the beginning of one of those articles. You can read the complete story online in the Spring 2012 issue. Click here or grab a copy if you live nearby!

To the naked eye, vegetable and fruit scraps may look like garbage but really they are just undecomposed soil. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans toss out 15 percent of their food annually. Within the entire food system, waste comprises nearly 40 percent when factoring in overproduction and expired food. In addition most yard waste (leaves, grass clippings, and branches) ends up at the dump, too. What a waste of waste!

We need to not only manage our food supply better, but also divert as much organic material away from landfills where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas. Instead, we should turn it into a renewable resource that can organically fertilize our soil to grow our food.

For the rest of the article, click here!

 
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Composting windrows at Full Circle Compost in Minden, NV
I wrote this article for the Rodale Institute. Start it here but finishing reading it there. It just got posted to their website today!

In an effort to overcome the economic downturn and scarcity of available jobs, many Americans are seeking opportunities in ecologically-minded businesses. Green tech and organic farming are two communities that have experienced continued growth in this era of corporate belt-tightening. Another industry is on the rise, albeit a less visible one: Regional composting facilities.

More than 600 compost facilities are registered with the US Composting Council. According to a 2010 report by BioCycle, a national composting and renewable energy magazine, there were more than 2,000 composting facilities in just the thirty states it polled. With stats like that, estimates could well exceed 4,000 nationwide. Some are fledgling businesses, while others are established businesses. But, if we are going to wean ourselves off synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, we are going to need a lot more compost to apply to our crops and fields. Regional composting facilities provide the answer.

...Read the rest of the article on the Rodale Institute website: Click Here!


 
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The last few weeks have been a crash course in Northern Nevada's growing food movement. I've had the great fortune to meet many of the people involved in helping to protect and facilitate the agricultural potential of the area.

I've interviewed local compost experts for an article in Edible Reno-Tahoe, got wind of the dirty business of Waste Management Inc., spoke at a town council meeting opposing the the rezoning of agricultural land to light-industrial and most recently, attended a one-day workshop to learn more about subscription farming for small farms, aka community supported agriculture (CSA). Here are a couple of those stories...

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Craig Witt of Full Circle Compost checking the core temperature of the compost windrow.
GARBAGE GUYS
For the magazine article, I interviewed two fascinating characters. Each own and operate their own regional, composting facility in Northern Nevada. With every master composter I meet, one thing is clear...they intoxicate others with their knowledge. Soil is their caffeine driving them to share the secret they hold, that compost can transform our depleted soils naturally. They understand the innumerable ecological benefits that compost can have not only on our soil but the environment. They root tirelessly in hopes that their theories become accepted and embraced by the mainstream. With my affinity for the stuff and aspirations to understand as much as I can, I'm like a disciple in their presence; listening to every word like a child hinged on the tale of a bedtime story. See Craig' vermicomposting video at the bottom of this post.

Craig Witt of Full Circle Compost in Minden has been composting professionally for over 20-years and farming since he was old enough to walk. He is the Joel Salatin of Soil. Energetic and evangelic in his passion for soil's biology. We easily blew six hours one afternoon talking about compost recipes, books on the subject, philosophies and more. When I left, he loaded me up with his homemade jalapeno jelly and zucchini relish. Yum! His composting site is located at the Carson City Correctional Facility where inmates on good behavior learn the trade and basically run the compost operation. I was equally impressed with the prison itself. I had never been to one before. As we checked in at the guard house, a prisoner who was in the yard just outside the building, came up to a drive-thru type window asking the guard about the "big dude" who had arrived the day before with seven others. Eegh! It was quite exciting.

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Burlap coffee sacks from ALL the Starbucks in Northern Nevada. Whoa!
Alongside the compost site is the prison's organic dairy which feeds all the prisons in Northern Nevada and next to that is the Saddle Training Program. Here, 600 Wild Mustangs captured by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), wait to be gentled and later adopted by regular citizens. It serves as a rehabilitation program for the inmates who are assigned a mustang to break and make ready for adoption. Prison is sounding pretty good these days. Wonder if they are taking applications? Just kidding ;)

Tom Donovan with RT Donovan Landscape in Sparks on the other hand has only been composting for 2-years. Tom carries a Clint Eastwood-cowboy quality and speaks with a subtle, western drawl. His no-nonsense approach to composting wrangles all my loose-ends on the subject. He speaks compost in terms that a layman can understand and I appreciate.

In an effort to diversify their family's 50-year old sand and gravel company, they repurposed a portion of their property for collections and composting of organic material. Sand & gravel was a multi-million dollar business for RTD but it has whittled down significantly over the past few years due to the housing crash. Composting is proving to be promising business.

SUBSCRIPTION DRIVE
As I entered the conference room on the Western Nevada College campus in Fallon, I was delighted to see a packed room of 65-participants for the CSA workshop. Only a handful currently ran a CSA meaning the majority where there to learn the basic steps to incorporate a subscription program into their farming business. Phenomenal!! More farmers!

A subscription program, or CSA, is where people pay a farmer up-front for food grown and in return, receive a box of veggies every week from Spring to Fall. CSA's are happening all across the United States. They are the easiest way to become better connected to  where our food comes from while at the same time giving farmers a fair price for their hard work but cutting out the middleman.

All the speakers were fantastic but Wendy Baroli with Girl Farm really sent people home with something to think about. Unscripted, she commanded the room with a presentation from the heart. Whether one implemented her alternative CSA model or not, she provided excellent take-away's for everyone; namely, know your customer! Her customers are working owners meaning they are not just members and they are more than volunteers. Each pay $2500/year for 14-months to be part owner in Girl Farm. In return, they get loads of vegetables plus eggs, lamb, pork, chicken and turkey. As owners, they are required to work one day every two weeks. It may seem like a lot of time and money but it would cost a lot more to own your own farm. As Wendy puts it, "You don't have to own you own farm, you can get together with your neighbors and own a farm together." That is in essence what they are doing. In its purest form, a CSA member shares in the risk with his/her farmer. But until you are part owner, is that risk tangible. Their co-owners are invested!

Craig Witt with Full Circle Compost of Minden, NV explains Vermicomposting!
 
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A common misconception is that chemical based fertilizers and pesticides didn’t exist till after WWII when Monsanto wanted to unload their reserve of biological arms on American farmlands in an effort to access cheap fertilizers and increase yields for a growing global population. The debate between conventional vs. organic, however, began many years before. In the book, Organic, Inc. by Samuel Fromartz, he talks about German chemist, Justus von Liebeg, who praised the ability of chemicals to replace manure as far back as 1840.

It was the Green Revolution of the 1940’s, one hundred years later, that opened the door for chemical fertilizers and pesticides to become the behemoth that is today. That door was opened even wider in 1971 when then secretary of agriculture, Earl Butz, embraced modern technology as being able to out smart nature and the slogan for farmers was, “Go Big or Get Out!"

Justus touted, “If nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous were fed to a plant in proper amounts, even in depleted soils, the plant would grow." Instead of feeding the soil, it was feed the plant. Even then, in an effort to make a buck, the environment was seen as expendable and simply a means to an end versus a partner in food production.

Around the turn of the century, Sir Albert Howard of Britain started to be recognized for his research in organics at the Institute of Plant Industry in India. He pioneered the early research which debunked the growing belief that chemical versus natural farming was superior. His claim was simple...composted soil improved plant health. Howard is often considered the father of composting. He developed the systems that we still use today. By the time he left India in 1931, he was producing tons of compost. So prolific were his techniques that they could be conducted at any scale. He had no choice. He knew he was waging a war against the approaching Green Revolution. His methods had to out perform chemical-based fertilizers. He published his findings in the 1940 book, An Agricultural Testament.

Then along came J.I. Rodale. He brought the work of Howard, and others in the organic movement, to the people. Rodale launched Organic Farming magazine in 1942 (currently known as Organic Gardening). While one war was raging over seas, another was taking place on American soil, literally. It was a race to make organic not an alternative but the norm. His publications became a target of the food and the medical industry for making false health claims against conventional. Despite published reports by the USDA in 1938 which attributed the Dust Bowl to the soil degrading practices of conventional agricultural, the government was still persuaded to allow agricultural mega-corporations to take control of the food system.

The rest is history as they say. We've seen success and failures over the years for the now "alternative," organic movement. My hope is...the trend towards ecological and socially oriented framing methods will continue to grow and the work of our fore fathers will be honored in a greener tomorrow.

 
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"Whoa Becky! That's a lot of milk you got there!" (her name really is Becky)
My Sundays are starting to become synonymous with farm tours. But today's tour was of a slightly different variety...a non-organic dairy. To understand the food movement, we have to look at all sides. Within organic practices there are many disparities and the same goes for non-organic. It drives home the point even more, "You have to know where your food comes from!"

It was a 380-cow dairy farm. They use no growth hormones (rBST) and only use antibiotics but once or twice a year for vaccinations. The cows still eat primarily a diet of silage (moistened corn and hay) but their environment and treatment is way better than most confined feeding operations. While not pasture-raised, they are put out to graze between daily milkings. One, 20-acre field is made available during summer and fall months which provides exercise and a natural, grass diet. The barns are very spacious and airy with screen-sided walls to the outside. Rubber floors make it nicer for the cows to stand. Alleyways are cleaned out twice a day and sandy beds get freshened up frequently with new sand. It may not be a day at the beach but the cows are clean and not stressed. The sand is used in place of straw because it doesn't harbor bacteria like straw. Hay is still used as seen in the picture above but usually for pregnant cows and young calves who need to stay warm.

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Shiny new milking parlor
Today was open house for their new state-of-the-art milking parlor (see photo right). All the farmers in the area were streaming through - lots of wranglers and roper boots. You could tell the farm is customarily spic-n-span but the milking room was especially shiny. Keeping it clean is built into the design with grated floors to make it easy to hose down.

185 cows are in production at one time. The other 205 are either too young or too close to giving birth. They are kept in a separate barn with alternating access to the same pasture. Cows don't go into milk production until they are 2-years old and when they have their first calf and pregnant cows are pulled from production when they are 3-months from delivery in order to let them rest. With the new facility, they can milk all 185 cows in 2.5 hours including the time spent bringing them into the parlor. The room accommodates 24 stations. That's about 5-7 minutes per cow. Compared to the old parlor with only 14 stations, it took over 4 hours to do the same job. Keeping cows pregnant is a daily task, a veterinarian visits the farm every day to monitor the ladies' health and schedule the artificial inseminations.

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Tucked out back was the manure pond. While contained in a concrete structure with no possibility of leakage, it was in stark contrast to the practices of an organic dairy. Yes, organic dairies have manure and save waste for compost. But most of the dung on pasture dairies is naturally spread by the cows as they rotate fields not collected in a lagoon. In this scenario, the nitrogen-rich water is later sprayed on the fields as fertilizer. Since it is straight manure, the soils have to be tested for other nutrient deficiencies and treated with artificial amendments versus using a compost tea which would carry all the nutrients necessary (see post 10/12/11). If pasture-raised, the farmer wouldn't have to grow as much feed leaving fields to develop mature, carbon-sequestering grasses upon which the cows would graze eating primarily a diet for which their digestive tract was intended.

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The farm family was delightful and their farm a picture of Americana. It represented a lot of good things in our agricultural system and perhaps they are the lowest lying fruits to later transition to organic. In the meantime, their co-op only accepts milk from dairies who share the same husbandry practices. Only problem is, there is no label for this type of product. So unless you do some research to find out what's in your area, you won't know the story of the milk on the shelf. And by the time you do that research, you'll have discovered a local, organic dairy and probably decide to just go with them. In the case of this dairy, their milk gets trucked across state line to be bottled three hours away. So much for local.

My next stop is an organic dairy. I had hoped to do the visits in reverse and go to the organic dairy first but you take'em as they come. Stay tuned!

 
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If you want to get a party going in your soil, make a compost tea and serve it up. It's a process by which you steep compost and spread the solution on your garden, crops or grass. Nothing like a libation of compost juice to fuel the foodweb living in and around your soil.

Cheffing a good compost and compost tea is the  ONLY way to keep a soil's biology in balance. I was enlightened to this trade fact during the soil class that I recently took at the Rodale Institute (see October 10th). Anything else, and either the soil is not as healthy as it could be or is being managed with inorganic treatments. Compost tea is applied in the spring and summer unlike compost which is applied in the fall. Compost tea is also an efficient way (yes, organic has lots of efficiencies) of applying organic matter if there is not enough compost to spread around. It helps compost go further. Compost tea, however, is only as good as its compost and knowing first how to make compost will provide the theory behind this little known energy drink.

COMPOST BASICS
Once we understand how soil works (see October 10th post), it becomes obvious that good soil biology leads to good soil structure. And it starts with compost! Compost provides the scheduled dose of biology that soil needs to grow healthy plants. It carries all the organic matter and living organisms to the soil. When you think of it, compost is just mimicking nature's biology. Old growth meadows and forests decompose plants and leaves cyclically. Applying compost brings that same type of biology to the crop's soil. 

While things like pH tests provide important information about nutrient deficiencies, it is more important to know that the fungal biomass to bacteria ratios are strong and that there is a diverse mix of insects (arthropods), nematodes, earthworms and protozoa thriving in the soil. If those things are present, the soil's foodweb will be strong and the nutrient cycling in the soil will be strong. Together, it keeps the soil aerobic and the biology in balance. Does this mean that fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides are unnecessary? Yes! In conjunction with other good organic, farming practices like cover crops, crop rotation and inter-cropping, compost and compost tea gives the soil all the nutrients it needs. Under these healthy conditions with lots of fungal biomass, weeds don't have the bacteria ratio to proliferate and the plant's immune system is strong and can ward off pests. If a garden or farm has sickly plants, lots of weeds or an outbreak of pests, the first thing to ask is, "what's wrong with the soil?" it should not be, "grab the spray!" Good compost will help fix the problem and correct the imbalance.

As the compost revs up the nutrient cycling, the root structure develops decreasing soil erosion and increasing the soil's water retention thus making it more drought tolerant. Root structure doesn't just mean more roots but longer roots that can access water deeper in soil horizons. For instance, regular grass may only have roots that are 4-6 inches but with the right compost, roots can grow as deep as 4-5 feet. Feet I say! With that kind of network, soil can hold more water and roots can go deeper for more water. Win-win! Then there is all the carbon which can be sequestered but we'll devote a whole separate discussion to that.

All of this new found knowledge would not have been made possible if it weren't for Dr. Elaine Ingham, PhD. I had several light bulb moments during the class but the one which flipped the really big switch was when she said, "if you have the right compost, you can fake a crop rotation." Whoa! That proved not only the power of compost but provided another trump card for my back pocket when talking it up with those who rebut the credibility of biological organics.

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Dr. Elaine Ingham, PhD brewin' up some compost tea!
BREWING 101
When it comes to making compost, there are a few different roads to take. There is the choice between thermal (hot) or vermiculture (worm) compost. Within thermal composting you have the 21-day, slow and kitchen compost recipes. The super cool part...compost doesn't rely on sun or outside temperature. If done properly, the microbes will generate the heat needed indiscriminate of the weather. Dr. Elaine has made compost in sub-zero temperatures. I love biology!

Dr. Elaine and her squad at the Soil Foodweb have several resources on making compost and compost tea. Here is a great article by Elaine featured on www.finegardening.com which takes you all the way through the process. For this exercise, I will share the basic concepts for thermal composting. Composting can sound complicated, smelly, time consuming and costly. Taking the right steps will keep the hassle, time, cost and smell down. Keeping the smell down, keeps the critters away and the method Dr. Elaine uses eliminates the need for expensive compost contraptions like tumblers. All thermal recipes have varying proportions of three ingredients: green waste (including food waste and coffee grounds), woody stuff (leaves, paper, sawdust, wood chips) and nitrogen (manure, legumes). The addition of nitrogen begins the composting process. And the amount determines how fast the compost cooks. In other words, hold onto your greens and woody stuff and add the nitrogen component when your ready to activate the process. At which time, it becomes a schedule of turning the compost when the core temperature reaches certain degree points. Closing tid bit...compost should have 50% moisture content. huh? it's easy...just take a fist-full of compost from the middle of the pile and squeeze it. If one to two drops of water seep out, you're golden! If not, spray some water on the pile. Okay, one more fun fact from Dr. Elaine..."You can't ever apply too much compost, just compost that wasn't made properly." She's one wise grasshopper.

 
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Born and breed in Ohio...mountain biking and composting
Mountain biking and composting together...two of my favorite things. It's like a Reese's cup but only better for me and the environment. When we arrived at Vulture's Knob Mountain Bike Park in Wooster, Ohio and saw the sign, I thought we had found paradise...as the name implies ;)

The joint enterprise is a perfect example of how land can be repurposed. Once a landfill, an innovative group of locals got together 16-years ago and turned the 125-acre dump site into a recreational area including a 6-acre mulch and organic food waste facility, Paradise Composting. Brilliance! Only needing room for an 8-mile bike trail, they wanted to incorporate other features that benefited the community. Features that invested in the region's future. A compost facility connected with the agricultural history of the area but communicated a mission of sustainability. Surrounded by monocultures of corn and soybean, Vulture's Knob is finding ways to connect with area partners and hopefully rebuild not only their ecosystem but those of their neighbors. The remainder of the property has naturally restored itself and is now a thriving woodland where carbon can be sequestered while still being able to manage the forest and harvest evergreens sustainably for local construction and Christmas tree sales.

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Entrance to the mountain bike park at Vulture's Knob
Rehabilitating the land through projects like Vulture's Knob and Paradise Composting demonstrates the kind of thinking we need to take with all properties. One of the solutions to "feeding the world" is better utilizing land already available and putting it into agricultural production. If food security is a concern, we need to inventory all land opportunities. Providing food abundance will require more than just preserving farmland but reclaiming lost land. Large, private estates could lease portions of their open land to young farmers instead of sitting fallow. Incentives could be provided to turn lawns into edible landscapes. Vacant city land could be rezoned to allow more urban farms, community gardens and farm incubator programs. State and local parks could be reconfigured and initiatives for things like roof top gardens could be implemented.

I can't end this without giving a few props to the trail itself...it's the best mountain biking I've found so far in Ohio. Littered (pun intended) with features like bridges, log rides and balance beams, I was a hog in heaven. What struck me most was their efficient use of space. Just like you have square-inch gardening, this was square-inch trail building. A terrain park parallels a portion of the cross-country trail. The two zig-zag above and below each other with natural bridges so they never have to intersect.Phenomenal! It was consistent with their whole philosophy...use only what you need.