Stunted tomato plants at Myers Middle School are sending a loud and clear message that our garden soil needs attention. So lucky for us that Chad Currin and Noelle Dommasch of BioSoil Farm in Schenectady, which produces low-dose, high-efficiency plant nutrient from food waste, learned about the Vegetable Project recently and paid us the other day.
They gave us 40 pounds of worm castings, offered some quick impressions of what likely ails our soil – high pH and deficient levels of phosphorus and potassium – gave us some advice and, best of all, said they would help us implement their advice over the coming weeks and months. At the risk of oversimplification, Chad and Noelle urged us to diversify the sources of organic matter going into our compost bin. Mostly we’re composting detritus from the garden. And that means we’re ultimately removing more nutrient than we’re adding as we grow plants and harvest them.
So maybe this is the year to finally make a concerted effort to capture a bit of food waste from school cafeteria – banana peels alone would go along way toward adding potassium – and to get a worm bin going in a classroom and to keep it going. We have started both a couple of times, but have not stuck with them.
Collecting food waste in the cafeteria requires separating organic debris from other material either in the kitchen or as trays are cleared. And that means slowing down and thinking about what refuse goes into which receptacle. It probably also means Vegetable Project volunteers coaching food handlers or kids until they separate material quite accurately. And then we will need to prevail upon custodial staffing to carry the organic material a few steps farther to place it in our compost bin.
Reducing the volume of waste transported off of school grounds should be reason enough to get everyone on board. Albany’s landfill is operating on borrowed time. We will happily settle, however, for the support from the school community for enriching our garden soil. Either way, we may have some sales work ahead.
Many thanks to Chad and Noelle for visiting and taking an interest in our work. Their interest will surely support the sales effort.