Table to Farm

Annapolis pilot program offers free composting for local agriculture

By Cheryl Costello

It’s one of those “win-win” ideas that makes you wonder why no one thought of it sooner.

Under a pilot program in Annapolis, some residents can get free compost bins and pickup service for their table scraps, and that compost will go directly to local farms. It’s waste reduction and support for agriculture wrapped up into one.

Bay Bulletin visited one of the farms benefiting from the program, Wild Kid Acres in Edgewater. Owner Gerardo Martinez is working to improve the land for his goats, horses, llamas, and turkeys.

“When we got here it was littered in garbage as well as pretty bad soil,” Martinez explains. “This is the original soil,” he shows us. “It’s all sand.”

In the two years since he bought the property, he has been working to rejuvenate the soil for his animals and garden. Compost from food scraps has been one of the key ingredients.

“Over there is our first experimental pasture grass,” he says, gesturing. “That’s rye that we decided to plant on top of the compost and it’s doing really, really well.”

The compost also helps with waterfront land protection, as improved plant growth will stabilize the soil and the slope from Wild Kid Acres to the Rhode River. Annapolis Compost is responsible for sending over the large compost piles that are soon to become Martinez’s new soil. Co-owner of Annapolis Compost Karl Schrass shows us how the compost pile actually heats up to create organic soil.

“The food waste and wood chips, they interact they start to decompose and turn back into soil. And during that process they generate this heat and it’s important to keep your compost piles hot so everything breaks down,” Schrass says.

Martinez brings in pigs to help, too. “They have these little shovel noses that can till the land,” he says.

With the success of local compost for farmers like Martinez, the City of Annapolis is launching a six-month pilot program. People in the Hunt Meadow neighborhood can sign up to get a free compost bin and free curbside collection of their scraps. The compost can include produce like whole sweet potatoes or onions and they will break down into usable soil after about three months. In addition to the curbside pickups, there is also a drop-off site at Truxton Park made possible by a partnership with Annapolis Green and their grant funds. President and co-founder Elvia Thompson says this program makes use of even more food waste than regular at-home composting.

“What’s accepted here is more than what you can put in your backyard composting, simply because this is going to an area where the piles are 30 feet high and they get very hot, very fast,” Thompson explains to us. “And that’s why we can accept bones and shellfish and meat and compostable plates.”

The idea for the six-month program was inspired by last year’s Annapolis Green project, collecting pumpkins for composting. People showed up en masse with their pumpkins, and the nonprofit filled more than 20 bins. That equates to 10,000 pounds of pumpkins kept out of landfills.

Jackie Guild, Deputy City Manager of Resilience and Sustainability for Annapolis, points out that 30 to 40 percent of food typically goes into our trash as waste. The city is also considering building its own composting facility, Guild says.

Kayla Carrillo is an Annapolis Compost customer who’s excited about the pilot program. “Instead of throwing away your food scraps, you just put them in a cute little bin that sits on your kitchen counter and it holds up all of the odors. So it’s quick and easy.” Carrillo will walk her food scraps to the bins at Truxton Park, rejuvenating the land for farm animals not too many miles from home.