There's a world of possibilities here...
Picture keeping at least a withering basil plant, barely surviving on your window sill. Heck, maybe you'll want to stick your hands in a community dirt plot once a month. Just...stick them in there. Nothing else. At a safe distance from others...if it's open... Or maybe hydroponic devices have been on your radar.
We're living in a strange time now, to say the least, and our basic needs are more prevalent than ever. We are especially aware of the farmers, grocery store staff, delivery personnel, and all of the hands that our food passes on its way to us. Gratitude to our real everyday heroes here!
What follows is an outline and an illumination of our food supply chain and what you need to know if you want to try your hand at growing too.
Bin and Bay Systems
Bins are commonly used for home composting, community gardens, schools, and neighborhood drop-offs. Larger systems on commercial sites, farms, and institutional settings may be referred to as bays.
The walls of bins and bays allow for compost to be stacked higher in a smaller space, which is what makes their design desirable. If there is no piping running through the pile for aeration, the pile will require manual turning.
An aerated compost moves fresh air through a static pile, using a set of perforated pipes or tubes that are hooked to blowers. Some manual pile turning may still be needed for optimal composting, though the need for pile turning is heavily mitigated with the addition of air flow.
Passive aeration can be done by laying compost on top of wood chips, pallets, or any other material that will allow greater air flow from the bottom of the pile.
In bin and bay systems, temperatures will reach 120 to 150°F.
Digesters are enclosed systems that can look and operate a number of ways, ranging from very low- to very high-tech. In backyard digesters, you may have a simple barrel that can be turned or tumbled externally in order to mix and aerate the compost.
On the larger scale, a moving drill can mix and aerate the compost regularly.
These composting systems are quick and efficient, though the end product they turn out requires additional processing in order to be properly broken down and used as a soil amendment.
Vermicomposting, or composting with worms, operates best when compost matter is between 59 and 77°F.
Worms are very good at ridding the soil of diseases, such as salmonella, but are not good at removing parasites. For this reason, people may choose to use vermicomposting as one phase of the composting process, as opposed to a solitary method.
Vermicomposting can be done in a series of trays on the small scale or in open boxes that are 2 feet deep by varying widths and lengths when scaling up. As fresh organic matter is added to the top of the pile, worms will continue to migrate upward as finished compost may be cut from the bottom of the pile.
One big advantage to vermicomposting is its speed. A 40 x 5 x 2-foot bed can process 300 to 400 pounds of food scraps in one week and will take three to four months before reaching full maturity at the bottom of the pile.
Food Scraps as Animal Feed
Food scraps used as animal feed processes compostable material quickly and provides a more diversified diet for animals who are otherwise living solely off of grain.
Leftovers for Livestock: A Legal Guide for Using Excess Food as Animal Feed offers state-by-state summaries on regulations, as well as federal laws, around feeding food scraps to animals.
NON-COMPOSTING FORMS OF FOOD WASTE PROCESSING
Dehydration is a cost-efficient and space-efficient model, though the end product is not nearly as desirable as full-nutrient organic matter.
It is possible, and perhaps more beneficial, to use the end product for biogas production - a method that Biosoil Farm has tested with its .
Pulping and Flushing
At home, people are most familiar with food processors, which send pulped food scraps down the drain to be processed as sewage.
Larger-scale processors will also pulp and send the food waste smoothie into sewage processing, using different machinery.
Most of the time, this sewage mix is not processed to be made into compost for soil and so is not generally acknowledged as a composting method.