May 14, 2021 | LIFE | By Abby Mercier | Photo by Aida Hasson
If you’ve ever been on the Tiger Trail, you’re likely familiar with the large plot of land owned by Colorado College: it looks a bit overgrown and appears as if it’s been abandoned. As a hand-painted sign suggests, the CC farm used to be housed here.
Two separate groups of students are bringing the CC farm back to life in different ways. One group is planning to reinvigorate the farm itself, while another is using the plot to compost.
Fortunately, I was able to connect with Sofie Miller ’23, who is one of the volunteer coordinators for Soil Cycle at CC.
Soil Cycle is a part of Food to Power, a local Colorado Springs organization, which operates on a pay-what-you-can basis.
The organization offers a bucket and bags for households to use for composting. Once a week, volunteers use an e-bike with a trailer attached to pick up scraps and bring them to either the CC student farm or the Hillside Food Hub.
The CC Soil Cycle club meets every Thursday afternoon to process the collected food scraps. Processing includes placing the scraps with water and brown leaves in three large bioreactors. These bioreactors will begin to decompose the scraps, and after about a month or so, the compost will have decomposed into useable soil. The soil is then offered back to households who participated in composting.
Responsibilities for members include turning the piles in the bioreactors to introduce oxygen. When I joined Miller and Sam Cadigan ’21, another volunteer coordinator, they showed me a bioreactor which had a lot of food scraps in it: the compost was steaming (its temperature was 110 degrees Fahrenheit) and had white fungus growing on it.
When asked what typically happens when this occurs, Miller said that ideally, they would be turning the piles every day — a goal she’s hoping to achieve with next year’s group of students.
Miller explained that determining what a pile needed was a fine-tuned science: “You really need to be able to look at a pile of compost and know exactly what it needs: water, food, oxygen.” Miller noted her interest in learning more about the science behind composting.
I asked Miller about the best ways for students to get involved in composting. Her advice was, “For those living on campus, your best bet is to use the on-campus composting.” For those who live off campus, Miller was a huge advocate for Soil Cycle: “They’re a great organization doing really cool stuff and their sliding scale payment system makes composting accessible.”
As somebody who has never consistently composted, I appreciated the fun and welcoming environment of those involved with Soil Cycle at CC. I asked a lot of questions while we listened to music, drank lemonade, and enjoyed each other’s company over a pile of steaming dirt.