Donation allows Medora students to do composting

MEDORA — The agriculture department at Medora High School will save a few hundred dollars on soil needed this school year for the greenhouse and raised garden beds.

The Jackson County Solid Waste Management District reached out to ag teacher Adam Conklin in August about donating a composting bin and a temperature probe, and he happily accepted.

Executive Director Debbie Hackman contacted him after she attended composting training, and it was perfect timing because Conklin said he had been talking to his students about wanting to compost garden scraps.

Within a week, the composting bin arrived at the school, and it was placed across the street where the greenhouse and raised garden beds are located.

In the past, Conklin said students would toss the garden scraps in the nearby ditch to be chopped up when it was mowed or thrown in the trash.

Now, the scraps will be put to good use.

Conklin said when vegetable plants and flowers have been picked, the scraps can be placed in the bin. Also, grass clippings, shredded paper and cardboard can be put in there.

“They want mostly the plant residue, any vegetable scraps, so we’ve gotten some from the cafeteria, like leafy greens, tomatoes,” he said. “Anything that grows out here (in the greenhouse and raised garden beds) that has gotten bad, like we’ve got radishes right now, if something gets in there and eats them up a little bit and they are rotten, then we put them in here.”

One thing that can’t go in the bin is meat because that will attract critters, he said.

“There’s the carbon and nitrogen is what they told us to do,” he said. “You’ve got to have this mixture correct, and then over time, if you give it enough time, then bacteria and stuff should get in there and start breaking it down. Hopefully, we turn this into soil. It’s a recycling of nutrients.”

It has been a good lesson for the students. Sophomore Brelee Underwood said while the mixture doesn’t smell the greatest, it’s interesting to learn about the process of composting. Classmate Haylee Sons said it’s cool to understand how it works.

“Some of the stuff on top is a little bit thick. They try to chop it down as much as possible and then put it in here,” Conklin said. “At some point, we’re going to have to turn it over.”

The temperature probe will be used to determine when it’s time to empty the bin.

“It’s supposed to get hot in there at some point, and that’s when it’s working, that’s when it’s supposed to be breaking down into soil,” Conklin said.

The plant and soils class is the main one involved in composting, but Conklin said his other classes are learning about its purpose, too.

“I think it’s another thing that they could do at home on their own someday,” he said. “We push a lot of sustainable, practical stuff that they can do in a garden. I talk more about that than I do like big, large-scale agriculture because I think being able to grow your own garden is going to be important, and if they can use (composting) to replenish, they’ve taken nutrients out of the soil by farming. This is a way you can utilize that rather than just buying a bunch of Miracle-Gro and putting that down.”