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Kansas City compost piles are a perfect place for fruitcakes and other holiday leftovers

Laura Spencer
KCUR 89.3
Urbavore Urban Farm located at 5500 Bennington Ave. in Kansas City, Missouri, offers a compost drop-off site for food scraps, grass clippings and leaves.

Food waste is a big issue all year, but especially over the holidays.

In households all around Kansas City, holiday menus have been planned, but what to do with the leftovers — the green bean casserole, cranberry relish, or mashed potatoes — may not have been considered.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste comprises about 24% of municipal solid waste. And during the holiday festivities, household waste — including food — increases by more than 25% from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.

Composting can divert some of that food waste from landfills.

“Composting food scraps is definitely one of the primary ways that we can better the environment,” said Dan Heryer, who runs Urbavore Urban Farm with his wife, Brooke Salvaggio.

The farmstead is located on close to 14 acres at 5500 Bennington Ave. in Kansas City, Missouri.

Helping the environment

Heryer and Salvaggio began farming the property in 2011 and not long after, they offered a free compost drop-off service for all food scraps, including meat and dairy.

“We always had sort of a vision for connecting with the community and having our urban farm be a resource,” said Heryer. “And one of the ways that was obvious to us as an urban farm to connect with the community was being a resource for processing the community's waste.”

Laura Spencer
KCUR 89.3
Urbavore Urban Farm has a drop-off site for compostable materials that is open Wednesday through Saturday.

Heryer shared tips for getting started.

“For home composters, I would say, you know, composting happens,” he said, with a laugh. “There are good ways to let that happen, there are better ways to let that happen. But, at the end of the day, you put some food waste and some of your yard waste in a pile; it's generally gonna break down.”

Some home composters build a circle compost bin, out of materials like snow fencing and wire, or a wood and wire cage. And Heryer suggests layering food waste with leaves and grass in the compost.

Lots of things are compostable, such as meat, poultry, fish, shellfish and bones, bread, pasta and grains, and egg and dairy products. But, when composting at home, he said keep it simple: with items such as fruits, vegetables and coffee grounds.

He explained, “So you don’t want to put meat and dairy in because you might attract raccoons or possums or other critters that are going to want to get into the compost and, and eat those things.”

Don't be intimidated

As more attention turns to caring for the environment, Heryer urged beginners not to be overwhelmed, explaining that producing a quality compost can be “somewhat of a laborious process.”

“I think that a lot of people start off composting at home with the best intentions,” he said, “and the amount of work that it takes to really get the right balance of food versus yard waste and that sort of thing can be intimidating and people often give up.”

Compost Collective KC.jpg
Compost Collective KC
Compost Collective KC, started in 2017, keeps food waste out of the landfill through a fee-based curbside compost pickup. Area residents can also purchase a compost bin, fill it, and return it to 12 area drop-off sites.

Heryer added, “And I would say to those people: don't give up. There are free resources in your community to continue to compost, even if you're doing a little bit in your yard, and you're taking your meat scraps and things that aren't as compostable in your own yard to a place like us where we can handle that kind of waste.”

For some metro area residents, driving to the farm to drop off compost could be an extra chore — and one with its own environmental impact.

“So if you can kind of stockpile your compost,” Heryer said, “and bring it less frequently, that's always ideal.”

For example, he said, some of their customers store their food scraps in the freezer. But, he suggests transporting it loose in a large bucket, lined with paper, or a recyclable paper bag.

The farm also recently took on partial ownership and management of Compost Collective KC, which provides curbside compost pick-up and a Bin Swap program where you fill a bucket, take it to a site and swap it for a clean one.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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