Come to the Compost Fair

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Tompkins Weekly April 23, 2012
By Adam Michaelides

Ways to compost abound. Whatever your circumstances – renter, student, busy, group or previously unsuccessful – there is probably a way for you to compost. Even if you are already composting, there may be ways to improve.

On Sunday, April 29 from 11am to 4pm, Cooperative Extension is hosting the annual Compost Fair in conjunction with the 4-H Duck Race. Besides watching 3600 little rubber duckies “race” down Cascadilla Creek and catching numerous acts including “Rot-n-Roll” play on the Solar Stage, we hope you will tour our compost demonstration site, put together your own worm bin and enter the “critter tent.” Teams of Master Composters and many Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rebuy partners in the County will be there to help and to inspire.

At the demonstration site, you will see various types of compost bins on display. Some are store-bought, others homemade, some you turn and others that you mostly leave alone. You will learn how they work and the various pros and cons of each bin. A couple of the most popular bins, the welded wire and Earth Machine will be available at cost. Go home a composter!

We will also have several types of composters designed to work indoors. These are particularly useful for residents with no access to outdoor space and people who don’t have all that much to compost. If you have copious amounts of organics like buckets of food scraps, loads of weeds and debris from the yard, an indoor worm bin may not be enough. The same goes for other indoor bins like the Bokashi bin, or the “Stealth” compost bin. The Bokashi bin works without air, fermenting scraps using a starter. The “Stealth” works more like an outdoor bin, but layering is done in a trashcan inside of a larger trashcan. Both of these, and the worm bin can work quite well with smaller amounts of food scraps.

The Compost Fair is being largely planned and staffed by the Master Composter class of 2012. Every year between 15 and 20 people learn lots about compost and education in order to help their friends, coworkers, neighbors and community reduce waste, save money and improve gardens. During this year’s training, we experimented with various indoor and outdoor compost bins. We will have these working bins on display and Master Composters would love to talk to you about them. The class also experimented with using finished outdoor and worm compost to start seeds and grow baby houseplants. Others have experience using compost as mulch or digging it in to the garden.

Is your compost working well? We are happy to help troubleshoot. Maybe the balance of “greens” (fresh, moist materials) and “browns” (dry, brittle materials) is off. Come find out what counts as a green and what counts as a brown. And how much of each will set you up for good compost down the road. Does your compost smell? Maybe it’s too wet. We have tips for how to build in more air. Or have you attracted pests of the insect or animal variety? Whatever your issue, we hope to send you home with what you need to compost more successfully.

In the past 10 years, composting has caught on in the community. All of the schools, hundreds of businesses and organizations are currently sending organics to Cayuga Compost. As such, Cayuga Compost is one of the partners who will be with us at the Fair. We plan to celebrate places that send their compost to Cayuga Compost by featuring them under the “rotlight.”

The Compost Fair and 4-H Duck Race will have plenty of fun and educational activities for kids too. There will be a variety of animals to pet. There will be food, music and prizes. In the kid’s area on the grass near the rock garden, there will be field games, face painting and compost activities. Go home with 300 pets… worms that is! And let the fun continue after the event.

If you have to miss the Fair, there will be other opportunities to learn about composting. This spring, the Compost Program will build a new compost demonstration site at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. We plan to offer a free outdoor class the last Saturday of the month from June through October. The last Saturday of May we will unveil the site and invite the public to take a tour.

There is also always the “Rotline” or compost hotline that you can call for any immediate or distressing compost issue. Call early and call often. The number is (607) 272-2292. Visit for more information about our educational services, including: the Compost Fair, classes and how-to factsheets.

Make this spring the year you start composting, or improve your existing compost. Hope to see you at the Fair!

Adam Michaelides is the Program Manager for the Compost Education Program of Tompkins County Cooperative Extension. The Program is sponsored by the Tompkins County Solid Waste Management Division.

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