Our ‘living’ systems are composed of carbon residue, micro-organisms, minerals, and red wriggler worms. The resulting material is remarkably fertile, giving plants access to the nutrients needed for both plant growth and for human nutrition. The “closed-loop” ecological approach to this system allows for the cleaning up of contaminants in the soil, for digestion and transformation of food waste, and for the production of fertilizer that is far more effective than chemical treatments. The high microbial count in our system helps fight off soil disease and breaks down food waste rapidly, keeping plants strong and healthy.
Our compost is made with recycled food waste, farm waste, brewery waste, and coffee grounds. Bread, dairy, or meat products are not included in the compost. The product of Vermicomposting (intensive composting in boxes with worms) is also added to the growing system. The resulting worm castings are a low impact, completely sustainable product that has the NPK ratio of a strong fertilizer and the perfect pH for planting vegetables. The compost and castings are added to fields and raised beds as mulch, a soil amendment, and in the form of foliar teas. In the urban growing environments raised beds are built called “Living Biological Worm Systems;” these beds are constructed with a layer of raw compost seeded with a healthy worm population and then capped with castings and/or topsoil. These raised beds maintain their fertility with little or no amendment for up to five years.
Annually, we compost over 40 million pounds of food waste — all of which would be designated for landfills under traditional waste management.
Compost 101: Growing Power Style
It all starts with food waste – food waste literally by the truck load. Not only does Growing Power compost all of our farm waste in Milwaukee, Merton, and Chicago, but we also pick-up food waste from Maglio’s Produce, Beans and Barley, Garden Fresh, and Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative in Milwaukee, just to name a few.
Milwaukee is famous for its beer, but what happens to all of that brewery waste? At Growing Power it becomes worm food. We collect over 60,000 lbs. of brewery waste from Lakefront Brewery every week.
Did you know worms like coffee too? Since 2000, Anodyne has delivered the used coffee grounds from their Prospect Avenue café to our vermicomposting bins at Growing Power Food Center and Training Facility. We also collect the coffee grounds from Northwestern Mutual’s cafeteria. It is a great nitrogen source.
Extra! Extra! Read all about it.
Or for those of you not reading the newspaper, we compost over 500 pounds of newspapers per week from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Growing Power Chicago’s Iron Street Farm is proud to be one of Chicago’s two licensed commercial composting facilities. We hold both the IL-EPA Commercial Compost Facility License, as well as the City of Chicago Class III Recycling Permit, which allows us to accept food and landscape waste generated off-site, and sell our finished compost. We compost 5 tons of material a week from restaurants, breweries, organic wholesalers and other compost partners.
Growing Power has helped support the work of the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council and their Chicago Compost Working Group to expand this opportunity to other urban farms in the City. As a result of legislation passed in Fall 2013, urban farms and community gardens in the State of IL may now accept material generated off-site, increase the size of their compost operation, and move finished material to other locations under the same management. Previously, all material composted had to be generated onsite and the final product had to be used onsite. This limited the potential for a balanced compost pile and the possibility to divert community food scraps from our waste stream and recycle them into healthy soil used to grow the urban agriculture movement. We are currently working with the City of Chicago to amend their policies to reflect these changes at the state level.
Need some other options for your compost pile?
Growing Power also collects:
- Cardboard boxes
- Grass clippings
- Mildewed Hay
Interested in learning more?
Come to Milwaukee and learn how to build your own system at a Growing Power workshop.