Composting at UMF
SCC student employees and volunteers participate in composting food scraps from the UMF dining hall with the help of Sodexo Dining Services and the Farmington Compost Cooperative (FCC). Three times a week students collect 8-12 barrels of food scraps and transport them to the FCC site located near the Farmington recycling center. In the 2021-2022 academic year, the SCC diverted approximately forty-four tons of food waste from being sent to a landfill.
In 2021, Waste Management (Norridgewock, ME) donated to the SCC a truck that makes our compost operation possible. Proceeds from semi-annual compost sales help defray costs of truck maintenance and compost operations, as well as a paid internship for a UMF student to learn more about the importance of organic waste management
UMF’s Semi- Annual Compost Sale
Twice a year the FCC holds a compost sale that attracts Farmington area farmers and gardeners alike. Sales from Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 totaled over $3,000. The funds from the sale offset costs associated with running the site, necessary repairs to the UMF “Sustainability Vehicle,” and support a paid summer internship for a UMF student. In collaboration with UMF alum Mark King of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, who supervises the internship, each UMF intern develops their own project to improve and expand composting in the Farmington area. This semi-annual event is extremely popular. As Mark King noted, the compost sale in Spring 2021 “had people lined up all the way down the street, filling their trucks as much as they could, and even coming back for more!”
Summer of 2022, Zackary Laflamme (‘23) worked with Against the Grain, a food waste management for-profit company, that works with breweries, cideries, distilleries and others to transport used grain to mainly dairy cow farms in Massachusetts. Holden Cookson (’16) is a UMF alumni and was happy to have a UMF undergrad such as Zack to be an intern for him. Zack’s responsibilities were mainly online, he sat in on zoom calls and identified grant opportunities and business partnerships for the company. He also researched possible sustainable processes that Against the Grain could incorporate into their operation. One day, Zack had the opportunity to work alongside Holden in the truck to receive the spent grain and deliver it to local farms. As a Geography and Environmental Planning major (EPP), Zack felt as though he was “getting his foot in the door” with this opportunity. He learned many professional skills that he will continue to use in future jobs. “All my EPP classes translated really well into this job and it was great to be able to take the knowledge learned from classes and take it into the field.” Since finishing his internship with Holden he has become a student worker for the SCC and in cooperation with the FCC to deliver compost and continue to combat food waste!
With funding from the semi-annual compost sale, UMF is able to offer a paid summer internship with the Farmington Compost Cooperative (FCC) to a student interested in learning more about food waste management. In the summer of 2021, Chelsea Roy (‘23) designed a project with her supervisor Mark King (MDEP) to expand “edible landscaping” in Farmington. She worked with the local Parks & Recreation Department and Farmington Garden Club to plant raspberries in Hippach Park and other public areas. As Chelsea began to see an increase in other edible landscaping, such as shadow boxes outside the Farmington Public Library, she felt like she was part of a community project that has “sparked change!”
In the summer of 2019, Aiden “AJ” Saulnier (‘22) worked with the Farmington Compost Cooperative (FCC) site on a few projects, one being focused on an experiment that included the testing of the compostability of plant based plastics. Throughout the summer AJ found out that with the temperature of the FCC’s compost piles were not hot enough to degrade these plastics. The piles actually warmed the plastics up just enough that when they cooled down they actually got harder and almost impossible to decompose. This was a very important finding; now it is known that these plastics cannot be dropped into the piles and these plates, forks, straws, etc. can only be placed in an industrial grade compost pile.
If you are interested in a paid internship with the FCC, contact UMF’s Sustainability Coordinator, Mark Pires. For more information about internships in composting and other related areas, check out the Internship webpage on the UMF Experiential Learning website.
Careers in Composting
Holden Cookson (‘16) graduated from UMF with a Bachelors in Environmental Policy and Planning, and since graduating Holden has become Director of Business development at Agri-Cycle, and founded the company, Against The Grain. Against the Grain works with local farms in Massachusetts, feeding the animals grains from local breweries, distilleries, and cideries, reducing food waste that otherwise would’ve ended in a landfill. Education at UMF granted him “the ability to think of the world in a more diverse and complex way.” As an extremely self-motivated individual, he was able to achieve the results that he wanted from his education and career trajectory. Summer of ‘22, Zackary Laflamme (‘23) worked phenomenally with Holden under an internship position at Against the Grain. Zack, a very passionate, self-motivated, and curious person, like Holden, was able to provide help keeping up on tasks in a very appreciative way. Holden spent many hours working for the Sustainable Campus Coalition, and playing Ultimate Frisbee, which he still plays today.