The article in the Traverse City Record-Eagle on August 3rd and 4th, may have given the false impression that human waste was used on food-producing gardens at the Little Artshram site.
Let us be clear: NO HUMAN WASTE HAS EVER BEEN USED ON FOOD GARDENS AT LITTLE ARTSHRAM IN ITS SEVEN YEAR HISTORY.
This false rumor was started by a member of our gardening community. We have been informed that he is continuing to spread this false information. He notified the health department, and understandably, they immediately came to the gardens for an inspection. At their request, we removed the above-ground composting toilet that had been part of an educational program for four and half weeks, and we showed them the area that is beyond your food gardens (west of the gate) where this urine and small amount of feces was buried in a composting operation. Their inquiry is now closed, with no charges or citations.
As part of the overall inspection, a representative from the department of agriculture determined that the horse manure that was donated in good faith was not fully composted; this is the reason that we have discontinued the CSA program and the “charity garden.” Though the risk is small, we recognize that this is a serious issue, and must support the decision that was made.
To satisfy our efforts to begin expanding community gardens in Traverse City through the Urban Farming Collective, and to honor the commitment and work of the majority of the 2011 community gardeners, in planting and tending the “communal” plot for charity, we will have an extensive soil test done on that plot to determine any damage or concerns of the donated horse manure. This doesn’t mean that the department of agriculture will rethink their determination of asking us to remove all the plants, but we will make that effort.
Additionally, our friends at The Village of Grand Traverse Commons have already helped us turn the horse manure compost into our mixtures of leaf mulch mold and shredded cardboard and leaf piles.
Little Artshram understands both the fear and perceptions that our gardeners are dealing with. We now understand that licensing may be required for our program on the Barns Property, and will fully follow the law, obtain proper permits and continue to protect public safety. We sincerely understand the seriousness of these issues and our responsibilities in monitoring and enforcement of policy and procedures. We ask that any false rumors be quelled immediately. We also ask for support in speaking honestly to those who continue to fuel the false rumors.
All gardeners are asked to attend the Wednesday, August 17th monthly potluck and meeting, at 6:00 pm at the Community Grove Picnic area just north of our garden site. We will ask speak about the benefits of “communal” plots vs. individual plots as we strive towards building community; have the working groups share updates and invite new folks into their groups; answer questions/comments/concerns and @ 7:00 pm, we will host a comprehensive composting demonstration which will be open to the public.
Please join us, and use this as an opportunity to strengthen our commitment to building a community rather than dividing us.
The issue of human waste is one that pushes a lot of buttons in our civilized society, we invite you to peruse the Humanure Handbook, which can be downloaded off the internet as a pdf file. We followed their guidelines, for our simple composting toilet, which includes NEVER PUTTING HUMAN WASTE on food producing gardens.
Another excellent newer publication from Chelsea Green Publishers, called
“Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind, by Gene Logsdon is at this link: http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/holy_shit:paperback%20with%20french%20flaps
Below are a few facts compiled by a co-hort in the GT area, who offers similar gardening and education programs as Little Artshram:
“…The largest use of water—clean, drinkable water—in US households is the flush toilet. Almost 25% of our household water is used to flush our “waste” down the drain. According to The Humanure Handbook, “it takes between 1000 and 2000 tons of water at various stages in the process to flush one ton of humanure. In a world of just six billion people producing a conservative estimate of 1.2 metric tons of human excrement daily, the amount of water required to flush it all would not be obtainable.” Living in Michigan makes us acutely aware of the value of water, and at a time when so many in the world have such limited access to clean water, it just makes no sense to flush ours away.
Manure of all kinds, and particularly of cats, dogs and humans, requires careful handling in order to protect public health. But manure—insect frass, cow pies, and yes, even “humanure”, is a valuable fertility resource in a time when we are more aware than ever of the dangers of synthetic fertilizers and other chemicals in our food production stream. Sim Van der Ryn, back in 1974, calculated that one day’s waste from Los Angeles alone provides the nutrients to grow 5000 tons of vegetables, enough to provide every person in that city with one to two pounds of fresh produce a day.