Compost for Good project awarded $170K for community composting initiatives

SARANAC LAKE, N.Y. — Turning food waste into compost will be easier for North Country communities, thanks to expanded funding for a regional community-scale composting program. AdkAction and the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) announced that the Compost for Good (CfG) initiative has been awarded $170,000 in grants to provide technical assistance for organizations, municipalities and other institutions interested in designing and implementing composting programs in their communities. 

The three grant awards — $120,000 from the USDA Rural Business Development Program, $30,000 from the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program and $20,000 from the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) — will help AdkAction and ANCA bring the composting initiative to more North Country communities. 

“We’ve seen remarkable growth in both the work accomplished, and the need for services provided by Compost for Good since they joined AdkAction in 2020 as one of our projects,” said AdkAction Executive Director Sawyer Cresap. “Thanks to this exciting award from USDA, AdkAction will be able to support increased reach for the Compost for Good project. We’re pleased that ANCA will also be joining us as a partner in sparking a composting revolution in the North Country.”

CfG was established by co-founders John Culpepper, Katie Culpepper and ANCA Energy Circuit Rider Jennifer Perry in 2020, when NYSP21 provided a $20,000 grant to launch the program. Regional demand for CfG’s services — including site visits, presentations, case studies, educational videos, grant assistance, regulatory navigation, and peer-to-peer connections — has grown significantly over the last two years. AdkAction and ANCA’s partnership, bolstered by each organization’s established networks and local food programming, will increase CfG’s capacity and support more community-scale composting efforts across the region, particularly among North Country farms.

“As demand for our support has increased substantially in the past year, our team realized we needed to expand our capacity. We are excited to work with these two powerhouse nonprofits that are already well connected with local farms and communities. Together, we are better able to respond to the growing demand for composting in our rural North Country communities,” said Perry.

AdkAction will oversee the $120,000 USDA Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) to support community-scale business development for composters, haulers, manufacturers, retailers, software creators and other enterprises. The second-round grant allows CfG to build on efforts that were supported by a  $93,000 RBDG in 2021 and 2022. ANCA will administer the SARE and PPI grants to provide technical assistance for farms interested in improving and expanding their composting efforts. 

The SARE Partnership Grant will support a research and pilot project on Whitten Family Farm in Winthrop, N.Y. The funding will allow farm owner Cherie Whitten to conduct research on the amount of gas, moisture and heat produced by her compost, which will be used to heat and fertilize greenhouses on her farm. ANCA will support Whitten’s research with a team of scientists and provide educational materials and technical assistance for farmers interested in replicating her project. 

“Northeast SARE provides grants to address key issues affecting the sustainability of agriculture,” said Candice Huber, SARE Grants Program Coordinator. “This is an important project that could reduce farmer costs and effectively process organic waste.”

“ANCA is glad to build on the work AdkAction has accomplished over the last two years to bring Compost for Good to more local communities and grow awareness around the economic and environmental benefits of community-scale composting,” said ANCA Executive Director Elizabeth Cooper. “ANCA has a long-standing relationship with both AdkAction and Compost for Good, and we look forward to working with them to make community composting more accessible for North Country farms and communities. We’re grateful to the Rural Business Development Program, SARE and the Pollution Prevention Institute for helping us achieve that goal.”

The Compost for Good initiative grew out of a collaboration between ANCA and North Country School Camp Treetops, where John Culpepper served as director of facilities. The design and construction of the Lake Placid school’s in-vessel large-scale composter was funded by a 2015 grant from the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) and administered by ANCA. While CfG has supported over 100 U.S. and international organizations, businesses, universities, school districts, manufacturers, haulers, composters and regulators to decrease the amount of food scraps sent to landfills, the team’s primary focus is New York’s North Country region. 

John Culpepper of Compost for Good, right, and Chris Neil of Norman Ridge Farm in Vermontville discuss how best to compost the farm’s manure and bedding mix and how specialized equipment — like a hygrometer and thermometer — is used to ensure high-quality compost.

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