The Metaphor in the Soil: How Compost Builds Community

What began as a humble hobby—using a borrowed bike trailer to gather kitchen scraps from friends who worked at restaurants — became a business model that many are now talking about and even emulating in other cities — bike-powered food waste diversion and distributed community composting.

Nearly three and a half years after Gainesville Compost was founded — in the shed of a rented student home — what has emerged is a beautiful, organic web of community that I can’t help but compare to the soil.

Compost, the work of millions of microbial bodies, is the feedstock for healthy soil life. Compost, too, is the basis of a society rethinking its relationship to food.

In a healthy “soil foodweb,” a term coined by compost expert Dr. Elaine Ingham, countless organisms interact and thrive off of one another in harmonious symbiosis. This engagement creates life in the soil, which benefits plants that take root and grow.

Similarly in Gainesville, our partner businesses, organizations and residents interact and collaborate to build culture, gardens, and a community foodweb.

I love this metaphor of the soil, and how the communities in the dirt resemble our own above-ground communities.

Gainesville Compost helps restaurants, businesses, and residents to divert their kitchen waste by bicycle to community composting centers located on the properties of local partner organizations, some of which use our compost to grow food.

As composting grows in popularity, so too does our ever-expansive community food web.

The Gainesville Compost piles arranged neatly around town are but small microbial metaphors in a bigger picture of community that is culturing in Gainesville and beyond.


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