Compost Outposts: ECO City Farms

Our partners at ECO City Farms have joined our fleet of Compost Outposts® by erecting a new modular composting site at their farm in Bladensburg, MD. Established in 2010, ECO City Farms is a non-profit, multicultural, Certified Naturally Grown, urban teaching farm. Currently, ECO manages three farms in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Their mission is to grow great food, farms and farmers. The Bladensburg Farm operates on approximately 3.5 acres, providing a space for education, composting, healthy food production and environmental preservation.

This Compost Outpost was made possible with the U.S. EPA Region 3 Solid Waste Management Assistance Grant awarded in Summer 2021. In partnership with Compost Crew, ECO City Farms, Prince George’s Soil Conservation District (PGSCD) and Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR), this latest Compost Outpost is aimed to  promote a model Compost Outpost for a distributed composting & vermicomposting network. Thus generating the high quality compost needed for healthy and sustainable food growth in and around cities in EPA’s Region 3. This significant public-private collaboration demonstrates, implements and educates about the value of proliferating a series of clean and unobtrusive on-farm composting operations. 

The Compost Outpost will be a significant update to the current composting operations at ECO, which began in 2010. Before the construction of the Outpost, ECO was composting in a structure called the “Wormhouse”, where ECO employees and volunteers made hot compost piles and used worm bins to create nutrient rich soil amendment from organic based feedstocks including food scraps, leaves and wood chips. 

Director of Urban Agriculture and Compost Guru at ECO, Benny Erez, and former Compost Crew employee and current Compost Manager at ECO, Thomas Fazio, designed the original Compost Outpost at One Acre Farm. This became the prototype for our Compost Outpost® system. The new Outpost at ECO City has the capacity to process up to 2,300 pounds of food scraps per week. The food scraps will be collected from nearby homes, minimizing the distance it must be transported to turn it into finished compost.

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Benny’s knowledge of theoretical and practical farming technology aligns with our intention to benefit the environment by using food scraps locally to produce high quality compost. This particular system is unique in that it utilizes a renewable energy source, solar panels. These panels power the blowers used to aerate the compost piles, making the system even more sustainable. It seemed like a no-brainer to enable the production of rich, ready-made, soil with ECO City Farms. While all of this compost will be used at ECO, a portion will go to their vermicomposting operation to make their vermicast and the rest will become compost that will aid the healthy growth of produce. ECO City planted themselves in this particular neighborhood to provide healthy food for the residents of the adjacent subsidized housing complex in what is otherwise a ‘food desert.’

Thomas Fazio, who grew up in Prince George’s County, is an MDA Certified Composting Facility Operator and recent graduate of the USDA funded Beginning Farmer Training Program (BFTP) at ECO City Farms. He reflects on how this farm and its educational programs uplift budding farmers. 

“One of the barriers for young farmers in our area is land access. The BFTP program presents an opportunity for folks in our area to learn how to run their own farm and eventually start their own business.” 

ECO’s newest farm in Watkins Park in Upper Marlboro, MD is meant to provide land to a select number of applicants to grow their farm business on a rent free lease. 

Two of our former composting fellows, Julie and Brian, have each graduated to bigger roles that urge them to use what they learned with Compost Crew and put it into effect on a larger scale. 

Julie Williamson is a hands-on Compost Operator who is onsite with Brian Campos, our Composting Operator Assistant, leading the team of Compost Crew employees. This team will process approximately 1 ton of food scraps per week. With our back-to-basics mentality, minimal machinery is needed when we can use natural elements, like worms, sunlight and our hands to assist with the production of compost.We’ve experienced first-hand how education, mentorship, creativity, and composting can foster positive community transformation. Collaborating with the community is what really brings our visions into fruition. We are proud to partner with ECO City Farms and bring our first Compost Outpost to Prince George’s County, a community that nourishes the minds and bodies of the local residents.