Brad Learns How to Compost | It's Alive | Bon Appétit

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Brad Learns How to Compost | It's Alive | Bon Appétit

hey guys welcome back to it’s alive with brad leone i’m brad leone and uh you know i really want to use this platform to be able to show oh my god this soil is so hot it’s so hot on the ass there bud hey guys hey it’s live we’re gonna be doing composting organic composting we’re gonna be making soil we’re gonna start off in brooklyn at a community garden with vivian from ground cycle where she runs a food collection program that turns people’s food scraps back into soil and then we’re going to finish off in new jersey my lovely beautiful home state and meet up with jay from ag choice and learn about the science of decomposition and what exactly is going on in these piles of compost how it gets turned into soil and in the evolution of this show we are going to be spending a lot more time outdoors these days we’re going to be spending a lot more energy focusing on where food comes from the people behind it we got a lot of work to do let’s get our hands dirty oh thai basil it’s like one of them it’s like one of those things it’s like catnip kinda you know you ever smell something sometimes you just get like a little chill like you almost want it like you know hey so i’m here with vivian from ground cycle and vivian so you run the composting program here i started this program when the pandemic hit and the city stopped collecting all compost and with ground cycle we do a farm fresh produce exchange and i found farms to work with where i’m helping residents compost at home and turn their scraps back to food the whole idea is that you’re being part of the agricultural process by taking your scraps and bringing it back to the farm you don’t really need to do any of the work and the farm does the work for you beautiful and you get the food right back normally that would go where to a landfill one third of new york’s waste system can be recycled and is organic a third of all new york city’s waste potentially could be turned into recycled that’s hard metric tons of garbage yeah yeah for sure i mean these should be everywhere you know how come they are are they are there is there a lot of places like this throughout the city the reason why i connected with farms was because there were no options in new york city after the pandemic hit a lot of sites for compost drop-offs they all stopped they’ll shut down yeah so everything now that they collect is being sent to landfill and when it goes into landfill it produces methane gas and composting and turning in the soil instead of just it would be putting i mean i’m assuming would just be putting nutrients back into the ground right soil is a great source that can stop climate change because it draws down actually the carbon emissions that we’re producing and you know the soil eats that up i mean soil is life it’s more and more as i do more episodes out of the kitchen and in the fields and with farmers and people who are you know rooted in you know no pun intended rooted in our food system it always just comes up how important how vital soil health is and how much more people need to be spending attention to it yeah enough of me yapping how can i help you make some soil how can i get my hands dirty help you here you know you got me for the day i brought some scraps that i’ve been uh collecting from my household although i think i might have messed up because i didn’t bring like from my kitchen you know i thought i was like oh i got a nice little garden at home i’m gonna show them i like the garden which i do so we can throw that into the compost pile but when you compost you’re mixing browns and greens browns being like sawdust twigs all of the stuff that has a lot of carbon and then food scraps have a lot of nitrogen and when you mix those two together they break down so it’s a fermentation right it’s it’s everything’s breaking down things are getting hot yeah it heats up until you know 160 degrees when you just mix these two things together and add some water so it’s pretty magic it’s just it’s amazing yeah these are all full of food scraps that we’ve been collecting from the garden the whole neighborhood has been coming every sunday to drop off their food scraps these are directly from households and from the same stage not broken down at all yet so they got some there’s stuff going on i mean it’s not liquid if that’s what you mean but looks like some molds there’s some smells going it’s not a bad odor but it’s you know it

smells like a hot bag of garbage oh it’s actually not that bad at all it actually smells kind of good it kind of smells like vegetable stock yeah all of these things that you see might look like waste but it has so much nutrient inside of it is it only vegetable matter if you had a fish bone you throw that in here so more industrial level composting can break down bones and dairy and meats and all those like harder to process items but with some composting piles you don’t want to add those things because rats and stuff they’re attracted to that people do bring some brown so you see this like i mean brown i’m sorry browns is you know like literally brown things yeah like brown paper bags leaves right here you see they’re just you know carbon filled well look this is i brought like garden scraps this material is great and it can be added in here yeah yeah all right i’ll do it a little tomatillos little tomatoes you’re going to want to rip up the bag all right so i’m ripping it out i saw you gonna have it yeah and then we’ll just kind of just bury them up yeah and then this stuff like absorbs the liquid that helps with the smell and everything and then something’s growing on that and then all of a sudden that’s turning into something and then it becomes a new thing and then it’s soiled exactly who doesn’t want that that should be showing up at everyone’s doorstep monthly all right guys we got our compost here i mean but what uh what look what do you guys want to do in this little plot well so we’re going to weed out this bed and then turn the soil and then plant seeds so they’re there you’re a real nice guy but uh you never introduced me to your friend here yeah so casper is the community garden member and leader who’s been helping us with this whole composting program here he’s the greenest thumb i know i like the garden myself man i’m a big fan right this place i can get lost in it you know it’s a tiny garden booth we’ve got a lot going on we’ve got bees and fruit trees and yeah you say tiny but we’re also in the middle of brooklyn and people should be growing i mean least it’s beautiful anyway what made it work so how could we just start pulling out weeds is that allowed all these weeds oh wow was that not the move oh no i was like oh you guys like to go little one we’ll put this into the compost as well some of this is um volunteer arugula what’d you call volunteer arugula yeah so it’s arugula from last year that’s seeded itself have you tasted it is it real bitter do you mind you’d definitely go for it it’s delicious is it arugula cool so i think we’re ready to turn this up you ready to turn it up cast it up turn it up let me turn it up go ahead turn it up should i pepper a little layer of composting this is the soil that’s coming back after you guys collect it and that’s what’s coming back i actually hand sifted this stuff for example today yeah well thank you so you could see some of like the wood chips still there because that’s what’s used to break down all the food scouts we’re just mixing right yep turn it up turn up man oh what’s in the bag bob got some seeds here’s some lettuce seeds from a farm upstate i love these guys the hudson valley sea oh yeah in every package they have like the artists do their like everyone’s a different every letter you know every vegetable or whatever is a different it’s beautiful that was a response been here for people bringing compost and community garden i think a lot of people like that the fact that they can participate you know everybody’s you know growing herbs at home starting like gardening in their apartment yeah be a part of it you know all right so we got lettuce in the ground we got all the weeds that we put out you know we can put these back in the compost go go full circle on this yeah all right vivian thank you again for showing me around this lovely garden and your composting system would have gotten your bucket there when you sign up with ground cycle you get this bin full of produce delivered to your house and that’s beautiful yeah you can look through it oh yeah huh that’s beautiful you give us compost and we give you produce oh amazing what a fantastic system why is composting good for everyone i mean why is it just something that as a human being everyone should be proud of and contributing to i think that literally anybody who eats can compost because we’re all creating that waste right right so it’s really everybody can participate in this one small step to be more sustainable and make the world a better place grow healthy food it’s a beautiful cycle yeah what why not it’s so easy right no i couldn’t agree more i just want to say thank you again i mean this is amazing and i hope this just pops up

everywhere it’s the work that needs to be done and i’m looking forward to heading over to new jersey and seeing the next part of this let’s get out of the rain huh thanks bro yeah thank you [Applause] feels like um at the bottom of old gas stations oh it all smells like money to me all right guys so we’re here with jay from ag choice in my lovely home state of new jersey and we’re at new jersey’s longest running organic compost facility and uh jay is going to show us how we take food scraps and turn them into mountains of dirt to turn into vegetables are you taking it from supermarkets or restaurants is it kind of all the above primarily we’re getting materials from local grocery stores distribution centers food process facilities industrial organics so like byproducts of in like so if someone’s making cookies and there’s a lot of whatever left over i guess cookies is a horrible example but i think you know example we get a lot of bakery waste yeah and that kind of material as well and one of the things that we really try to do here at ag choice is to educate people on looking at food waste differently it’s not a refuse it’s a resource so here we convert it to clean organic soil and make a high quality compost and topsoil yeah so right now we have one of our roloff trucks coming in from one of our local grocery stores and he’s going to have a mix of food waste whether it be produce waste meat waste kitchen prep all kinds of materials getting ready for the compost process oh you got to pull that way just walk around with it and swing it right around there you go stand back and then you can just swing it let it go oh it’s fruit flies it smells so bad oh my god it smells so bad oh my god oh my god i’m backing up for treats come on you got to get in here come here this one’s still perfectly good you just have right at that for lunch oh yeah you’re right i’m not hell no so i mean it’s f i can just you know just looking at it there’s so much different types of vegetables and produce and fruits in here you would imagine this would be like some grade a primo foundation of nutrients for soil i mean you just have so much diversity so these are really really good feedstocks making a recipe just like you bake a cake you need certain ingredients right to make good compost and compost anything without odors you need to have the proper recipe so it’s a balance of carbon nitrogen oxygen and a water source you’re you’re a chemist you guys are mixing things and and to make different you know get put your nutrients and have a balance it really is all about the science and a little bit later on this morning we’re going to meet our resident site scientist christine so every day we start off with that recipe we lay this material out into row we turn it with a specialized machine it mixes everything together and then christine starts right away taking readings for oxygen temperature she’s monitoring moisture content you do different types of proteins as well and how does that work we’re permitted to take the full gamut of food waste meats fish dairy so we can compost anything under the sun including customers that don’t pay and do it without odors but the plastics are the worst problem one of the biggest ones are those little food labels right there which we all hate already no matter what i do i can’t get these plastic labels out of my soil so to make your job the easiest and the most efficient it just starts with the people simple things like taking out as much plastic and as garbage as you can absolutely so obviously we have our produce waste right we’ve got some dry carbon materials in here in that bucket was also some of those coffee grounds which is a good nitrogen source well so you mentioned the coffee too because like i feel like that’s something for people at home people go one way or the other with that it’s like no you can’t put coffee in your soil it’s going to blah blah will kill it uh what’s your take on that so coffee grounds are an excellent source of nitrogen so we use a large volume of coffee grounds and we also pioneered a coffee capsule recycling program here for an espresso it’s good for the environment we recycle all the coffee we recycle all the the aluminum so after you get you know truck full food scraps like this here what’s the next process in the composting so now we’re going to take this material and we’re going to start laying it out into the row that christine has designed the recipe for nothing wrong with this cabbage

so these are called windrows the idea behind these is you get all this material laid out here and then we have a specialized machine as the next part of the process that actually straddles over the top of this specialized i love a good specialized machine and you like running this one it’s pretty cool [Applause] so this machine is the heart and soul of the composting operation so this is going to go down this road going to straddle it it’ll blend all our materials together so the idea is it takes everything from the outside of the pile brings it into the middle and starts to mix it all together what we want to get is we want to get that carbon material mixed with all this nitrogen material so the microbes that are in there can start doing their work to break things down but they’re breaking it down in an organized way which is what prevents the odors i’d like to introduce christine she’s our site scientist so basically there’s no pressure but if christine doesn’t do her job the right way the whole company fails christine why don’t you explain the probe and what you do for us so the probe takes our temperature and oxygen levels inside the rope has to be located in the top third of the row the stem is actually about four feet long so it goes right into the center we want to get our rows up to 131 to 150 degrees fahrenheit for at least 15 days in a row that’ll kill off all salmonella listeria e coli and also weed seeds so when you get the compost it’s just going to grow really good grass or vegetables or whatever you know that makes perfect sense and something that you know i haven’t really thought about much until now and i buy like organic composted soil and stuff but i always wondered how come nothing bad grows in it and it you just answered that for me so it’s called pfrp it’s the process to further reduce pathogens and if it starts to get too hot do you have to like if it starts to get too hot we run the turner through okay and then so once you how long does it stay at this stage of decomposition are rows generally finished within 100 days does weather have a lot of factors with that the only time we have to worry about the weather is when it goes below zero oh wow we’ve had rose get up to 170 degrees when it was five degrees outside yeah that’s amazing right yeah the local wildlife love it we’ve got turkeys roosting on top to stay warm we’ve got a little coyote who likes to hang out in the back we call them scratchy yeah it’s amazing how i know the row is actually behaving properly too is i can use the word behaving it is well they’re my body it is yeah yeah so you know your kids behave did you see the white on a little grove inside of the wood chips that shows me that the bacteria and microbes yeah it’s going to be hot oh wow huh so that’s a good size yeah that means that everything’s growing and moving well thank you very much yeah it was nice site scientists you know i’ll tell you what i achieved to have that title one day site scientist well thank you all right so what happened what’s happening over here so this is our curing pile so everything’s come out a row but now we got is we got all this compost that’s full of wood chips and small stones and little things that we don’t want to send out to our customers right so we’ll stockpile the material over here we’ll let it cure for another month or so christine takes samples of all this product and then sends it out to a lab and the lab is checking for everything from heavy metals to microbial activity once we know that the material is stable mature um there’s nothing in it that we don’t want in it and it’s ready to go for sale it’ll go out here to these this line of equipment out here in the back and what this does it screens out all those wood chips the stones okay uh it also has two vacuum cleaners on it that’ll pull out any little bits of plastic that may still be left in the soil amazing so your last last defense of filtration absolutely yeah you said it sorts out a lot of the large organic matter like the wood the wood chips and so that stuff i’m imagining that probably just gets sent back to the compost or absolutely we’re actually able to keep reusing that until it’s completely composted down breaking it down yeah and the benefits of that is now that it’s been through the composting cycle it’s teeming with beneficial microlife so when you use that reintroduce that into a new row yeah you’re introducing accelerated microlife into the start of it wow so you’re using the your filtered out you know not good product not good product and using it to inoculate your new batch of compost since you have it all sorted out already i mean can we uh how do we load some up so i’ve got a truck we have to make a delivery today so we’re going to go load up one of my trucks and uh and send out a load of material

if you guys can run up to the top ready like them dirt bikes you know they have the big back on them going up then climb up it no you know i can’t only one way to find it i’m not doing that to jay’s black gold man so starting or disrespecting his this business like that you know what i’m saying jay this is this is it huh this is the black gold yeah that’s why my truck is named black gold all right jay so what we’re dealing with here this is this is the finished product this is this is the good stuff organic complete compost from you know food scraps and and brown matter or whatever so is it pretty much just done decomposing then fermenting for that as you look at this you’ll see there’s no recognizable food waste or other organics and i gotta say you know right the first thing i noticed is the difference in smell when it was in the rose it had like a real like a sour earth kind of smell there was a hot garbage in a in a good way you know and now it’s just i mean you can put this in your hand and it’s got that nice rich earthy smell like a forest floor if you were in a forest and scratched up the ground it smell you know it smells like topsoil so the biggest things for healthy soil is healthy plants so you and i have an immune system to fend off disease and bugs and all those kind of things plants don’t have that they rely on microlife in the soil as their defense systems right so gardens and areas that have heavy weed pressure probably have very very poor soils are places like this all over the country or do you feel like we should be doing a lot better job so what i tried to do when i started this company was show that you can compost do it successfully on a smaller scale and the big thing was we could duplicate this we could take my model and duplicate this anywhere in the country on a small to medium sized compost facility create jobs make an impact reduce uh you know landfill waste here in the u.s um the old adage of you know dig a hole let’s store garbage in it and generate as much money as we can it’s catching up is catching up and it’s very problematic i mean we could dig into a landfill right now dig down 150 feet and pull out a newspaper that i could still read to you it’s the answer probably yeah the anti-compost it really needs to change as a society like we were talking about with the plastics with the landfilling we need to do a much better job and in ways educate the people into the food system absolutely sounds like a win-win to me jay it’s a no-brainer yeah we’ve composted here successfully diverted over 2 million pounds of food waste that’s amazing over the years so even on a smaller scale you know you can make an impact you can you can affect the community absolutely and jay for you know for folks at home why is it so important for people to get involved in composting at home most people when they flush their commode or they put their trash at the curb they’re done they have no idea what happens to it after that i’m not saying that you need to know the ins and outs of a sewer treatment plant but you really should start paying attention to where is all this plastic going what’s happening to all this food waste because the systems that are in place now aren’t working we cannot just keep dumping stuff in a hole and to me wasting it right and you’re you’re never going to completely eliminate food waste you know i don’t know anybody that’s found a source for the outer husk of a pineapple so you know there’s always going to be waste products plate waste so it’s really important that we start looking at these as valuable commodities as opposed to just waste that we need to dump in a hole no i couldn’t agree more and and thanks for being a part of the change because if without it i think we’re in big trouble right absolutely i hope you guys learned a bunch about compost and i know i did um you know when i came in i knew that it was important that we should be doing more of it but really what inspired me with this episode and the folks that we’ve met from vivian and casper to jay and his team was the importance of composting on on a human level on a national on a municipal level the importance of keeping such potential such rich garbage as we call food scraps out of the landfill and utilizing it into a system and putting it back into our soil back into our earth to produce more you know more nutrients more nutrient dense soil and vegetable and food and whether you’re growing food or trees it all starts at the soil and our part our responsibility as easy as it is to just compost gather find out some community gardens by you or farmers markets or facilities like jay you know just do a little research and hopefully there’s some stuff where you live get involved it might seem like a little bit of an inconvenience but if we all did it i mean let’s face it that’s how change happens soil health is everything i’m going to help jay out i’m going to finish loading up this truck with some of the soil because this organic this black gold this jay calls it this organic composted soil isn’t going to get too so you know isn’t going to oh jesus brad just do the work all right chase i mean sorry i got a

full lighting i’m sorry this crew always just hard to work with jay i’m going to need uh any speaker supervisor jay on the uh maintenance schedule on this here d cat no i’m just kidding made that up completely um anyway my voice is shot hey guys welcome back to it’s alive no that sounds like a game show today we have four guests they will all be challenging to get who will be though shut up all right ready