Based on the reporting in the Traverse City Record Eagle, the general public may have been led to believe that Little Artshram is an organization using unsanitary and unsafe practices at our Historic Barns Park community garden site. I would like this opportunity to say this is absolutely not true.
First, I wish to apologize for my error, as directress of Little Artshram, in generating a concern: We needed toilet facilities for our summer camp, and I chose to build an above the ground, home-made, compost toilet system, that I now understand did not meet local regulations in Grand Traverse County.
Without minimizing the concerns or fears, however, I also want to explain that the real problems were minor ones, taken care of quickly.
No human waste was ever used on food producing gardens.
With the help of legal counsel, Little Artshram has finished its work with the organizations investigating all concerns.
The Department of Health asked us to remove the compost toilet; we promptly did so. The Department of Agriculture, after confirming that no human waste was used on food-producing gardens, felt that some of the natural fertilizer we had been using in our gardens – composted horse manure – was not yet ready for use. They asked that we remove the food-producing plants that were intended for public consumption; we promptly did so. The Recreational Authority determined that Little Artshram required a day camp license for its summer classes, despite the fact that such a license had never before been necessary. They asked us to shut down the camp for the remainder of the summer and to take steps to obtain a license for next year, which we have.
I welcome this opportunity to clear up misunderstandings, to begin another round of working with the Recreational Authority and our barns’ property partners in a clarification of place and practice, while complying with necessary regulations. And we appreciate the need to communicate our philosophy and methods more clearly.
The question that keeps popping up in my mind is: What does “compost” mean to you?
My first response connects to one of my earliest experiences building an accidental compost pile, when I was a kid, and told to “take the garbage out.” Which was a pile at the edge of our yard, in the field.
Since then, I’ve learned that indeed the process of composting in its simplest form is to pile up waste outdoors and wait a year or more to use it as a soil amendment. When we mimic nature’s process, with human intentions of doing this building or feeding of the soil, the practice and skill of composting is a multi-step process with measured inputs of water, air and carbon- and nitrogen-rich materials.
Over the past three years, at our community garden site, we’ve made a lovely, rich compost with piles of leaves, shredded cardboard and the donated horse manure. This fall, with just one more turn of the composting pile, and a welcome invitation to neighborhood worms and fungi, we will be ready for the 2012 gardening season.
Penny Krebiehl, Directress, Little Artshram