In 1998, The Berea College Farm began a food composting program. This program was a great way to utilize food waste from the Dining Hall while also creating a reliable source of organic fertilizer for the Horticulture Enterprise. For decades, compost was produced at the Horticulture Farm and finished compost was used as fertilizer and a potting media for fruit, vegetable, and house plant production. More recently, compost production has moved to the other part of the Farm enterprise.
Although the location of food composting has changed, the process has stayed the same. Students make daily trips to the Dining Hall, Farm Store, and Boone Tavern to collect buckets of food waste. This includes post-consumer waste, leftovers, and scraps from the cooking process. The buckets are taken back to the farm and emptied in designated piles. Students cover the food waste with carbon-rich material, such as straw produced on the Farm. Bacteria, earthworms, and other organisms break down the food waste, and after several months, a useable product is available. After many years of the food composting program, the College Horticulture Farm still has a significant amount of finished compost to use in production. At the new location, the finished product is spread on pasture and row crop land as a fertilizer. This ensures that the program will continue to provide a means for nutrient recycling and produce a low input soil amendment.