This month Meg and I met with the fine people at City Farmer for a tour of their Compost Demonstration Garden. Established in 1978 by Michael Levenston, City Farmer is the pioneer organization promoting urban agriculture in Vancouver. Along with being strong advocates for growing food in the city, City Farmer is the place to go to for expertise on everything compost-related. We met with Michael and his colleague Maria to learn about how they are doing vermicomposting and to find out about other composting systems they use at their demonstration garden.
Michael and Maria gave us some great contacts and ideas which we can use to make improvements to our composting process at the Resource Park. For example, they suggested experimenting with various carbon sources in our composts to produce a nitrogen-rich finished product. For a compost pile to be successful, the composting microbes generally like around 25-30 parts carbon (for energy) to 1 part nitrogen (for protein production), or a “C:N ratio” of 30:1. Currently we use wood pellets as our carbon source, which are high in carbon but break down very slowly. This means the carbon isn’t instantly available and it takes longer to be used up by the microbes, resulting in a carbon-heavy compost. City Farmer suggested using alternatives such as leaves or sawdust, or to try to break down the woods pellets with leachate before adding them to the nitrogen-rich food waste.
Other things we discussed included the speedy new age composters made by Green Goods, or “dragons” as they are commonly nicknamed. We found out Trafalgars Bistro has successfully incorporated a Green Good composter into their food waste management strategy. And finally we talked about best practices for vermicomposting with your own worm bin.
City Farmer manages the City of Vancouver’s worm bin program and has been hosting “Wormshops” for over a decade. For $25 participants sit in on a one hour worm composting class and leave with all the materials to start their own worm beds, including the bin, the bedding materials, and 500 worms! We signed up to attend a Wormshop in the spring, and you can too by following this link.
It was a fun visit, even in the cold weather, and we gathered a lot of great info. Thanks City Farmer!
For anyone interested in staying in the loop on urban agricultural news from around the world, City Farmer’s highly acclaimed blog is a great resource for news stories and helpful videos. They also run the Regional Compost Hotline, 604-736-2250, to answer any composting inquiries.