By Marsha Johnston, Arcadia Farm Education Volunteer
Arcadia had been buying compost, but to buy twice as much would have broken the bank. Instead, on a sufficiently discrete spot on Arcadia’s lower field last December, he created the first pile out of 30 parts bedding and one part manure from the neighboring horse stables. By March, it was ready to spread. While manure from grazing animals like horses, cows and sheep is fine, Stephen cautions that compost should never include waste from carnivorous animals such as dogs and cats, to avoid introducing pathogens.
“The most important rule is the 30 [parts carbon] to one [part nitrogen] ratio, where brown is carbon and green matter is nitrogen,” Stephen says. “It’s the one most people don’t get right. You can’t just throw out a bunch of kitchen scraps and expect to get compost. That’s why it gets a bad reputation, because if you do that, it will smell horrendous.”
For Arcadia’s second batch, he used horse manure plus food scraps from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group Central Commissary and coffee grounds from Buzz Bakery in Alexandria and Peregrine Coffee. Living in Alexandria, Stephen picks up the grounds from Buzz Bakery, while Arcadia’s Mobile Market picks up from NRG and Peregrine, which are both near its route, in Union Market. “We’re layering it all with leaves from the city of Alexandria and spoiled straw from Mount Vernon,” he says, adding that clean newspaper and brown paper are also good brown matter components.
Thanks to Stephen, Arcadia now produces enough organic compost to meet its growing needs, while keeping otherwise useful organic matter out of landfill. He'll be teaching our June 1st Workshop on How to Compost so join us to learn about building your own backyard compost.