Based in Toronto and New York City

, Nancy Matsumoto is a writer and editor who covers sustainable agriculture, food, sake, arts and culture.

Archival posts from my former blog, Walking and Talking

The Tyranny of Urban Compost Collection

Life can get busy, and sometimes it's hard to find time to do the things I like, for instance going to the greenmarket. Ever since I started saving compostable food scraps, though, those trips are no longer optional, they're mandatory.

Earth Matter compost center on Governor's Island.
Photo by Valery Rizzo.
Why? Because I freeze my compost material until I can deposit my bags at one of Grow NYC's convenient market drop-off points.  If I can't get to the market for over a week, my family begins to balk at the spillover bags that start crowding the refrigerator, squishy intruders that offend sensitive fridge gropers.

Meredith Hill and friend.
Photo by Valery Rizzo.
The person I blame for this dilemma is Meredith Hill, a Pied Piper-like middle school teacher at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science and Engineering. She's at the center of my article on urban composting in the current issue of Organic Gardening.  Meredith had her kids study the young reader's edition of The Omnivore's Dilemma and not only got them hooked on composting and gardening but turned them into vegetable lovers, too. (Kudos, Meredith! You've gone where many parents can only dream of going.)

Hill's class in their compost-rich organic garden on Amsterdam Avenue.
Photo by Valery Rizzo. 
I accompanied Hill on an expedition she led to a "chicken composting celebration" held in conjunction with the compost education organization Earth Matter, which processes 1,000 pounds of waste a week and turns it into compost. The event reunited Hill's students with six chickens they took care of at school for over a month as they learned about the virtuous cycle of food scraps (which the chickens feed on and augment with their nitrogen-rich droppings) transformed into food (eggs) and then compost.

Reunited: Student and chickens; Nigale Fofana reads her ode to chicks.
Photo by Valery Rizzo.
If you're wondering why middle schoolers get to have all the fun, read to the end of my article where I offer tips on how you, too,  can start your own community compost group.

Photographer Valery Rizzo shot awesome photos for the story, some of which I'm featuring in this post. For the rest of her favorite shots from the piece, check out this blog post from Valery.

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