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Composting on the VA Campus

Vermont Academy students and faculty returned to the Saxtons River campus this fall to learn they were in the commercial composting business.

The Academy, guided by VA's environmental science teacher Christine Armiger and her class, recently contracted the services of Certified Master Composter, Bruce Herforth of Garden Alternatives to design and carry out the construction of three enclosed compost bins on campus, which will ultimately produce compost for use by the Academy or local farmers and gardeners.

Although much of VA's pre-consumer food waste is currently donated to local pork producers, the post-consumer food waste had been going out with the garbage. The new system will help the campus to greatly reduce its post-consumer food waste and simultaneously create a valuable soil amendment.

Every student and faculty member on campus will participate in the project. A station is set up in the dining room where students and faculty cut up their food waste and tear up their compostable brown napkins. Throughout the day, this food waste is transported in 5 gallon buckets to Bin # 1 of the triple-bin composting system.

After a layer of food waste (high in Nitrogen) is added, a layer of wood chips (high in carbon) will be added to keep the macronutrients in balance. This method of composting is referred to as the "lasagna method."

Each weekend, a group of students led by a faculty member will carry out the compostturnover process. The compost will be moved through the three bins until the process is nearly completed. The final stage includes the compost's drying and storage.

After three weeks of heat-accelerated decomposition, food particles will no longer be recognizable and the compost should look like a rich black fertilizer. It will, however, be heavy with water, making it difficult to store and transport, and so it will be transferred to an open-air tarp for drying.

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