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Composting habit can reduce waste

Florence Hedeen keeps her vegetable and fruit waste in a plastic bucket under her kitchen sink, next to her other recyclables. When the bucket is full, Hedeen empties it into a composting bin in her backyard. Hedeen and her husband, Carter, have made a lifelong commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle.1 / 3
Nicke Stier, Park Rapids, unloads a trailer full of leaves onto the Hubbard County compost pile. Within three years these leaves will become black dirt, available free to county residents.2 / 3
Black dirt is created from the compost pile and is a good soil supplement. People often mix the soil with regular dirt.3 / 3

BY Ellen Albee


Composting involves mixing yard and/or household organic waste in a pile or bin and providing conditions that encourage decomposition.

Composting can be on a small scale, such as a bin or two in a backyard, or on a large scale, as it is done at the Hubbard County Transfer Station.

Park Rapids resident Florence Hedeen is an avid composter. She has composted her organic waste since moving to town 17 years ago. She learned about worm composting first and tried it for seven years in a warm composting system set up in her house.

"But I got fruit flies and had to stop that," Hedeen said.

She then started composting outside again. She learned not to include animal products in her compost pile, because animals got into it and ripped it up.

"I set up three bins, very primitive ones. One is a green compost cylinder with holes. The other two have wire cages and I alternate which ones I use," Hedeen explained.

"I put in green kitchen waste, such as vegetable and fruit waste, and then add leaves periodically throughout the summer," Hedeen said. "I turn them twice each year and in the spring I have dirt to put into my garden areas."

"I never take wet garbage to the dump," Hedeen added. "The outdoor composting isn't as fast as the worm composting but we're not in any hurry."

She has compost piles for several reasons.

"I started composting because I wanted to reduce waste but the great benefit of doing it is having good soil to add to the gardens," she explained.

She added that nationally 40-50 percent of the food produced in the United States is thrown away.

"Anything we can do to cut down on waste at home is a good thing," she said. "I also tend to buy fresh, local food as much as possible."

She encourages others to compost as well.

"Anybody can do what we do if they have a backyard," Hedeen said. "I've never had the soil tested but we've had good luck with our vegetable gardening."

Composting on a grander scale takes place at the Hubbard County Transfer Station. Vern Massie, Solid Waste Administrator, said any Hubbard County resident can take lawn rakings (leaves and grass clippings) and garden waste to the transfer station. If brought in bags, they need to be opened and dumped on the pile.

"No bags are allowed in the pile," he said. "It takes three years from start to finish to turn the lawn rakings into black dirt," Massie said. "We roll it with a bulldozer and stack it up. Mother Nature usually gives us enough rain."

"One year we had to call out the fire department to add water to it because we were afraid it would ignite," Massie added.

The black dirt that results from the compost pile is a good soil supplement, he said.

"People mix it in with the sandy soil we have here and it is good enough," he said.

Any Hubbard County resident can pick up the dirt to use. He discourages picking up large volumes of dirt because it isn't good enough to spread out and seed for a lawn - it needs to be mixed with native soil.

"Most people bring shovels and buckets and dig out what they need," Massie said. "Ninety-five percent of the time I get complements on the soil. I've gotten one or two complaints that it is too acidic because it has too many pine needles in it."

"We use a lot of it around the recycling center and to cover the demolition landfills."