The Power and Joy of Composting

Here’s a true story: Four young teenage girls from Westchester – mall girls, TV girls, never seen a farm, hardly ever even touched soil with one finger girls – come to a small educational farm to spend three whole days. Uh oh …

On the second morning they wander over to the windrow compost pile where the farmer is preparing to add materials to it. It is a cool morning.

The pile is steaming. They ask why and what is it. The farmer tells them, briefly.

But enough essentials of what is going on for them to begin to suspect there may be some magic happening here. They are willing to look at some earthworms.

But not quite touch them, yet.

The farmer shows them some finished compost. “That’s soil,” they insist. They have met the farm cow. They have seen the very large buckets of gooey kitchen scraps. The finished compost doesn’t smell bad, neither does the steaming pile. They ask more about earthworms.

The farmer tells them, opening the door to the magic a little wider.

Come on they say, let’s go get the buckets, and they’re running to the kitchen. They lug them back. The farmer has a couple extra forks and shovels to open the pile a little and get the new material in.  But no!

The girls are rolling up their sleeves reaching into the once totally gross kitchen scrap buckets way past their elbows and heaving the slop onto the pile – opening spaces amidst the cow manure, rotting straw and earthworms with their bare hands.

As they go off to wash up they are all squealing – “Wow! That was awesome, totally fantastic … Did you smell it, that new soil smelled sooo good!” And on and on.

This knowledge is in all of us. This recognition. Deep in our bones.

The next day the young women planted new seedlings in soil amended with that compost and harvested vegetables from the same beds for lunch out on tables in the garden.

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