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A new way to deal with food waste in Durango

A couple that recently moved to Durango didn’t feel right about throwing away their food waste and thought others in the community probably felt the same. So, they started a program to fix that.

Emily Bowie and David Golden, both 24, recently relocated to Durango from Carlyle, Pennsylvania, and not long after, they launched Table to Farm Compost with the hopes the program would fill a niche in the community.

“The idea originated when we moved out here and didn’t know what to do with our food waste,” Golden said. “It felt weird and wrong throwing it away. We weren’t used to that.”

The couple accomplished that goal with the help of Sunnyside Meats owner Jerry Zink, who provided space for the two to run operations on a portion of his property.

“Composting is something I have worked on for a long time at Sunnyside Meats, and it’s important to my business that I have somebody take that project and carry it on in a more concerted way than I have,” Zink said. “I have a lot of different things pulling me a lot of different directions.

“And for the community, it ought to be done,” he said. “It’s a good thing to put the nutrients that are in food waste into the soil rather than into a landfill.”

Table to Farm Compost is a simple operation: A resident within city limits signs up for a biweekly ($15 a month) or weekly ($25 a month) pickup and is provided a 5-gallon bucket that is picked up on recycling day.

Composting materials include vegetable and fruit scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, wood ash and sawdust. Items to avoid include dairy products, animal fat or grease, large chunks of meat or bones, plastic and rubber.

Then, Bowie and Golden take the food waste to an area of Sunnyside Farms, near county roads 215 and 216 on Florida Mesa, and begin the composting process, which takes a few weeks.

Once complete, the couple will distribute the nutrient-rich soil back to customers. Any leftovers, they said, will hopefully be sold to anyone interested or donated to The Garden Project of Southwest Colorado.

“Composting, essentially, is the breaking down of organic materials and converting it to a soil-like product used by plants that are nutrient-rich,” Golden said. “And good soil, in turn, creates healthier, more yielding and nutrient-dense plants.”

Bowie added that curbside pickup reduces the risk of bears and other wildlife tampering with compost piles that many Durango gardeners leave in their backyards.

“And there’s a lot of people that can’t compost because of the concern of bears,” she said.

Bear Smart Durango’s Bryan Peterson agreed. There were several reports of bears scavenging outdoor compost piles at night last year, he said.

“It just adds to the Garden of Eden for bears,” Peterson said. “Trash and bird feeders are No. 1, but then comes compost, and chickens, gardens, fruit trees. But there can be ways folks can coexist with wildlife.”

A few months into operations, Table to Farm Compost has about 12 resident customers, as well as providing pickup service for Animas High School. Tenth-grader Jennifer Silva is mostly responsible for that.

“My teacher mentioned this business started recently, so then I started taking interest,” Silva said. “We were just thinking on something we could do to help the school be more resourceful because other schools have a lot of food that goes to waste. There’s a lot of food that’s just thrown away, and we could be reusing it.”

Silva said she plans to place buckets all around the school grounds, encouraging students to think twice before they throw items in the trash.

Bowie and Golden hope, as word spreads, more customers will sign on. Other successful, similar programs in Boston and Portland, Maine, set the template for curbside compost pickup.

They have the space, they said, to provide service to at least a couple hundred customers. And as business picks up, so will the program’s reach. The couple, which can only offer service to residents within city limits, hopes to take the Table to Farm Compost out to the county and beyond.

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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