Dear Aggie

Questions and Answers for September 16:

What are the benefits of composting and should it become a community service in parallel with trash and recycling pick-up?

There are many benefits of composting! It reduces the amount of food waste that goes into landfills, which in turn reduces greenhouse gases that are emitted. Composting also produces organic soil called humus (not the type you eat though) that you can use for a garden.

According to the EPA in 2014, the United States threw away more than 38 million tons of food waste. Composting is a great alternative, but should be considered a last resort. Other ways to reduce food waste include proper planning, prepping, and storing of food. For storing fruits and vegetables, you can wait to wash them until you are ready to eat. Certain fruits give off natural gases that can cause others to spoil faster. Store bananas, apples, and tomatoes in separate areas to reduce ripening time. Food waste such as bananas peels, eggshells, and coffee grounds can be composted.

In some areas, communities already have composting businesses that pick up their food waste. Your inquiry about composting becoming a municipal service would require action at the local government level. Some states, like Vermont, are taking larger steps. In 2020, Vermonters will have to separate their organic food waste from trash and recyclables. For more information about composting, contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension.

By Kaitlyn Lawrence, Local Foods Educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County

Are grocery store organics worth the money?

This is a great question! It depends on what you want your dollar to support. Produce labeled organic does not mean that it is local. Grocery store organics sometimes referred to as “Big Organic” support large producers from all around the United States and different countries. Most grocery store organics travel a long way to reach your plate. For example, organic strawberries in Aldi’s come from Turkey!

Instead of grocery store organics, another option is to buy local produce, whether it be from a roadside farm stand, farmers’ market, or CSA. Sometimes you can find local products in grocery stores when they are in season such as sweet corn, apples, and squash. If you want to buy local milk, look for the milk code 36, which means it is processed in New York State and sourced from nearby dairy farms. Local products do not always mean that they are certified organic, but you will be able to ask the farmer questions about production practices, and may be able to tour their farm.

Grocery store organics can be worth your money if you are seeking certified organics in a convenient location, but if you are looking to support your community’s farmers, keep your dollars local.

By Kaitlyn Lawrence, Local Foods Educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County


Catherine Moore
Agriculture, Natural Resources & Fort Drum Issue Leader
(315) 788-8450 ext. 236

Last updated September 18, 2017