Compost regulation in California

Posted below is a really excellent paper that James O’Claire did for the Environmental Studies class at UCLA in Winter 2013. James is a 2013 Asian Languages and Cultures grad currently living in Beijing. The paper captures what a class on experiential learning should be all about: toggling between “fieldwork”–in this case literally building and maintaining a garden–as well as research resources available through the course, and allied resources at UCLA, both textual and human.

Here is James’ basic research question and recommendation. You can download and read the paper below (scroll to the bottom of this post). He finds that, “The most striking aspect of the California compost regulations is that they are solely focused on keeping contaminants out and make no effort to regulate beneficial nutrients.” And he goes on to compare California’s state regulations to two other models, Minnesota and Oregon, and finds that these models both have strengths, including lists of specific definitions for the surprisingly ethereal stuff of compost.

If you find the research useful, it would be great if you could leave a note in the contact form below. It would help us demonstrate the real-world effect this course has, and help establish it permanently on the books. (At present it is a “topics” class, which means it has to be specially approved each year.) Please note that the paper is posted and shared under specific Creative Commons guidelines.

By examining other states’ requirements for composting I seek to understand how the California model compares and what possible ways it could be improved.  Currently, the standards which have been set have no legal consequences for those whose compost is mislabeled which misleads consumers on the quality and nutritional makeup of the composted soil.  California could most benefit from minimum nutrient requirements as well as a more specific ingredients list that includes percentages.



Food Forward: Urban Farming (PBS)

PBS takes us on an interesting journey through the exciting and expanding urban agriculture movement in America.  From hydroponic to honey farms, from Manhattan to Detroit to Oakland, these individuals are utilizing rooftops and vacant lots to localize food production.  They’re keeping it natural and at home, and they put all their love and energy into the food that they grow for their community.  The people we get to know in this video emit an infectiously driven and positive vibe.  This video is simply inspirational, extremely informational, and gives me so much hope for the future of urban agriculture.

Watch the video here!

How to sell @ a farmers’ market

Rachel Surls, whom you saw on the KCET video about Richland Farms and ag in LA County, keeps an occasional blog. Here, she blogs about how to get your goods into a farmers’ market if you are a small producer. Some markets are run by larger groups like Raw Inspiration, while others are more singular start-up operations, like the new Altadena Farmers’ Market.

These are the basic specs.

In order to sell farm products grown in Los Angeles County at a Certified Farmers’ Market, growers must contact the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office at 562-622-0426. (For those growing in other counties, they would contact their own county agricultural commissioner’s office).   An inspector will make an appointment to visit the growing area to find out what and how much the farmer is growing, and how much they project they will have available for sale.

There is a small annual fee for certification.  After the inspection, and paying the fee, the farmer receives a Certified Producer’s Certificate to display when selling at a market.  Growers can only sell what has been grown on the farm, and specifically, what is on the certificate. New crops can be added by amending the certificate.

Growing wheat in Agoura Hills

The LA Bread Bakers have a blog, where they are tracking the wheat they helped a farmer plant in Agoura Hills, just off the 101. The LABB have also recently built kilns and one of their members, Mark Stambler, led the movement to get the Cottage Food Law passed in the state legislature–now you can make and sell a whole range of foodstuffs from your own kitchen, legally, with minimal permitting and inspection hassle. For more info on the LABB, check out the blog, or their Meetup page.