Northfield kids get down and dirty, learn composting

  • Amy Donovan, program director at the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District, gives a talk on composting with worms at Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Amy Donovan, program director at the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District, gives a talk on composting with worms at Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Children react to worms in a compost bin during a talk on composting with worms at Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Children handle the worms in a compost bin during a talk on composting with worms at Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Maeve Noble, 9, of Northfield checks out the worms in a compost bin during a talk on composting with worms at Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 7/31/2017 10:34:01 AM

NORTHFIELD — A blue plastic bin held a lot of entertainment for a roomful of children in the Dickinson Memorial Library Thursday afternoon.

Gathering around, they marveled at the deep brown material inside and the creatures for whom the box is a home. Amy Donovan, program director at the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District, scooped up a handful of the rich soil, showing the children the red worms within. Some eagerly, and some with hesitation, the children took turns watching the worms wriggle in their own hands.

The bin demonstrated composting as part of the library’s educational program “Worms Make Dirt.”

For many attendees, composting wasn’t a new concept, as Northfield Elementary School was one of the first schools in Franklin County to start composting over a decade ago, according to Donovan. But with her guidance, the children learned how to make compost bins in their own homes, and the importance of composting.

“Composting saves space at the landfill or dump,” she said. “In 10 years, there won’t be any landfills left in the state of Massachusetts … They’re all filling up.”

Once that happens, Donovan explained, trash will need to be transported out of state, but composting will slow down the process while providing residents with rich soil for their plants.

Donovan described three scales of composting — small, medium and large — and outlined foods that can be composted through each method. A small-scale method involves an indoor worm bin, medium-scale involves a larger backyard bin or pile, and large-scale involves bringing food waste to a farm or Transfer Station. Large-scale composting accepts all food waste, she said, including meat, bones, dairy and oils that shouldn’t be composted at other levels.

However, composting also doesn’t work with just any worm, Donovan said, but requires residents purchase red worms, or get them from a friend who composts.

“These worms are decomposers,” she explained. “If we didn’t have these guys, we’d just be surrounded by piles of leaves that fall to the forest floor.”

A worm bin can be made with a storage tote, she said, with holes drilled in the sides and lid for ventilation, and bottom for drainage. The bottom should be lined with strips of wet newspaper, then food and worms can be added, followed by another fluffy layer of newspaper.

“Always keep the top layer of newspaper on there because that’ll keep the fruit flies away,” Donovan explained. The top layer can be peeled off to add more food.

Sprinkling in dry ground eggshells, clean sand or cornmeal is also important, providing worms with something gritty to simulate teeth, she said.

Donovan said worm bins should be kept inside in a temperature between 55 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and the newspaper should be dampened again with a spray bottle of water every two or three days. More newspaper should be added every six weeks, and finished compost should be removed twice or three times yearly.

Some items to avoid putting in a small-scale worm bin that cause mold or acidity, or attract fruit flies, include tomatoes, onions, bananas, orange peels, bread and crackers, Donovan said. Coffee grounds and filters should be composted sparingly to prevent acidity, and pineapples should be avoided altogether as they can kill worms, she added.

The presentation proved popular with the young attendees.

“The fact that you can actually make compost without having to go outside is cool,” said 10-year-old Sadie MacDonald of Northfield. “Instead of having (discarded food) go to waste, you can put it to good use.”

Reach Shelby Ashline at:
sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261 ext. 257


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