On Thursday August 21, 2014, twelve Innovative Farmers and Ranchers were recognized by University of Florida IFAS Extension and Farm Credit of Northwest Florida at the Jefferson County Opera House, in Monticello. This is the fourth year these two organizations have teamed up to honor a selection of the most innovative farmers from the Florida Panhandle.
The purpose of the Agriculture Innovator Recognition Program is to annually recognize innovative farmers and ranchers from 16 Florida Panhandle counties, from Jefferson west to Escambia County. In 2014, County Agriculture Extension Agents selected 12 Agricultural Innovators to be recognized.
All of the honorees have distinguished themselves as creative thinkers and leaders in the agricultural community. From this group of elite farmers that were honored by their home county, one is selected annually to represent Northwest Florida. This year Compost Community was selected as the Leon County Agriculture Innovator. Compost Community was nominated by Trevor Hylton, Leon County Extension. Read more about Compost Community below. The other Agricultural Innovators nominated this year will be featured on the Panhandle Ag e-News over the coming weeks.
Compost Community – Leon County Agricultural Innovators
Submitted by: Trevor Hylton, Leon County Extension
Compost Community is a network of urban professionals dedicated to strengthening the local food supply in the Tallahassee and Big Bend area. For a fee, Compost Community collects food waste and other compostable matter from local restaurants and households. The waste is composted and becomes a usable soil amendment. After six months, customers are eligible to earn compost for use in their own gardens or to donate to another individual, organization or community garden.
Compost Community is a relatively new business startup. The operation has two main sites where the composting occurs, and there are plans afoot to include 2 new sites in the near future. Sundiata makes use of help from community youth groups to collect and transport food waste from 12 local restaurants and several homes. This waste is then carefully blended with wood chips sourced from local tree companies. The materials are mixed as they rotate through a series of bins created from wooden pallets. All of these materials would have ended up in the landfill or littered where they could cause pollution. Sundiata prides himself on the fact that he has not just created a composting operation, but he is helping to create community. Through Compost Community, home gardens, school gardens and community gardens receive the compost end product and restaurants and tree companies learn about composting as a means of reducing waste in the landfill.
Compost Community is supported by customer fees and grant funds. Compost bins are made from wooden pallets that would otherwise go to waste. Compost Community provides consultations and workshops on composting.
Cooperative Work with the Extension Service
Sundiata is a member of the Leon County Ag.-Hort.-Urban Forestry advisory committee and has participated in listening sessions and focus teams for the office. Additionally, he hosts the Tallahassee Food Network monthly meetings at the iGrow urban farm, which he oversees. He has enabled numerous training sessions on composting at the FAMU community garden. The iGrow urban farm has been a vital resource for compost training for the Extension Office.
Compost Company has diverted 20,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill. He currently has more than 10,000 pounds of finished compost. This reduces waste hauling costs and landfill tipping fees. It also reduces the amount of fertilizer being used in urban and community gardens. Sundiata educates others about composting through workshops and regular blog posting.
Sundiata has been a longstanding member of the Tallahassee Food Network, a grassroots group which advocates for the transformation of food deserts to help fight obesity. He has worked to promote food security by helping to create the iGrow urban farm on a city lot in Tallahassee. The iGrow urban farm teaches youth entrepreneurship through farming. His new composting business adds another dimension to the youth empowerment and stewardship that he promotes. He currently has a youth mentorship program which is preparing a group of middle and high school kids to start their own composting business.
You might also be interested in the stories of other Agricultural Innovators highlighted in previous weeks: