Celebrating Composting

dedicationevent11Erin Murray’s creative look at wildlife composting to a Shenandoah Mountain backdrop was the focus of the “Artwork Dedication & Celebration of Composting” event held by the community Compost Drop-off program on Saturday, August 17. Coinciding with the Harrisonburg Farmers Market, event organizers encouraged market-goers to cross the green space from the Turner Pavilion to the compost collection bins’ drop-off area between 10 and 11AM to view the painting, meet the artist (shown at right), and learn from some local compost-enthusiasts.

Earlier this year, the Arts Council of the Valley awarded the Market Compost Drop-off program funds to commission Harrisonburg-based artist Erin Murray to create a compost-themed work for the outdoor, public compost drop-off bins’ site in downtown Harrisonburg. A print of the work has been installed at this location. The original work is being scheduled to rotate through area-wide public facilities including schools and dining venues.

In light of the painting’s dedication to “all composting efforts in Harrisonburg,” local composting champions were on hand at the event to share their work and expertise.


Eastern Mennonite University’s composting program is coordinated by Matthew Freed. Students haul compostables from all around campus by bicycle trailer to a central location to be composted on site.


Soil Cycles’ curbside compost pick up service was represented by Amelia Morrison. Her non-profit has saved over 6 tons of organic waste from the landfill this year … all moved by bicycle.


Chris Bowlen, with the Headwaters Master Naturalists, showed those in attendance how to set up and maintain a worm composting operation, otherwise known as “vermicomposting.” Worm bins can be kept indoors and used year round to turn food scraps and garden wastes into valuable garden nutrients. Photo above is by Karen Lee.


Shelley Baker (shown above) and Mary Gatling-Finks, also Headwaters Master Naturalists, guided anyone interested in discovering some of the hard working “Compost Critters” visible in decaying organic matter. Among the composting bins sampled for this activity were those of the Sunset Heights Community Composting bins hosted by Trinity Presbyterian Church.


Kathy Yoder coordinates the composting efforts at Waterman Elementary School. Their onsite composting bins churn out amendments for the adjacent raised-bed vegetable gardens.


The Compost Drop-off program’s Art Fovargue devised a composting “timeline” with samples taken from along the six month process for organic waste to be turned into nutrient-rich finished compost at the valley’s only industrial scale composting facility, Black Bear Composting in Crimora.

Additional help and encouragement for this project was received by Headwaters Master Naturalists David Forrer, Stephanie Gardner, Sandy Greene, and Carl Droms; Harrisonburg Farmers Market manager Josie Showalter; Harrisonburg Parks & Rec’s Jeremy Harold; and Climate Action Alliance of the Valley member and founder Cathy Strickler.

Thanks to everyone who came out to participate and celebrate with us, reflect on and be inspired by Erin’s painting, and get excited about all we can do with composting!

– Adrie Voors
Compost Drop-off program coordinator

Unless otherwise noted, photos are by Carl Droms.
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