As California municipalities attempt to comply with Senate Bill 1383, the new law requiring cities and county jurisdictions to offer composting services, the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe Composting Program aims to serve as a model for Humboldt County.
Humboldt County has a patchwork of local composting initiatives, but there is no countywide composting program. The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe program so far in 2022 has composted 734 pounds of organic waste such as coffee grounds and food scraps and 2,200 pounds of Powers Creek Brewery spent grains. Green waste is used in the tribe’s Daluviwi community garden, which helps provide food for the tribe’s elders food program.
“The trick is just to make sure you have staff who know the basics of composting: what hot composting is, how best to manage your piles to get the right conditions for rapid decomposition, understanding the maturing process of a compost heap,” Daniel Holsapple, community garden manager at Blue Lake Rancheria.
“Honestly, I think a lot of it is community awareness and engagement,” he continued. “So if let’s say, we talk about the tribe, reach out to the tribesmen and see what their needs are in terms of how much green waste they could produce in their homes, what types of greenways they produce, have do they have a lot of yard waste, like dead branches or leaves or grass clippings? Or do they have more kitchen scraps? How much do they produce? Are they open to separating their compostable materials? … I think that ours can certainly be considered a model for a start-up community composting system.
The compost-fed garden produces about a quarter of the fruits and vegetables that go to the Elders Food Program, which distributes prepared meals to Indigenous and non-Indigenous elders. The garden produced about 1,500 pounds of produce in 2020, but declined slightly in subsequent years as many seniors requested more leafy greens in their meals.
The garden will also sell some of the products from the new tribe stand at the garden, which will be open from April 15 on Tuesdays and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. While the garden has quail for their eggs, they plan to get chickens. , which can be fed composted material, while quail have a higher protein diet.
“We produce a lot of tomatoes every season because we have a really nice climate here in Blue Lake for tomatoes, quite a bit of summer and winter squash and corn, strawberries, the list goes on. We really went crazy with it. But I would definitely say leafy greens, summer squash, cucumbers and tomatoes are probably the big winners in the nutrition program,” Holsapple said.
Although the composting program started small, it received a $45,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture that allowed it to grow. In addition to grain waste from Powers Creek Brewery, the composting program also receives coffee grounds and eggshells from Honeycomb Coffee in Blue Lake.
“I think people might tend to be a bit intimidated by the prospect of community-scale composting, but you can start small and eventually scale up. We started with three hand lathe piles here at the garden, and now we’re expanding that to three much bigger piles that we turn over with our tractor,” Holsapple said.
Jackson Guilfoil can be reached at 707-441-0506.