Compost revolution at OAEC

compost revolution

The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center (OAEC) is an 80-acre research, demonstration, education, advocacy and community-organising center in West Sonoma County, California that develops strategies for regional-scale community resilience and the restoration of biological and cultural diversity.

OAEC is a unique gathering space for effective and transformative retreats, workshops or strategic planning meetings in a truly stunning environment.

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center

As the number of guests in their retreat program increased, so too has the volume of food scraps that their kitchen produces.

For decades, their chickens, goats, garden hot heap compost piles, and vermiculture (worm) bins were sufficient for processing their kitchen waste, but it soon became clear that they needed to find a better solution.

The Ridan Pro Composter provided OAEC with a solution for recycling their food waste but also the opportunity to demonstrate a commercial-scale sustainable food composting solution.

Earlier this year, OAEC installed a continuous-flow aerobic composter designed for commercial kitchens. Garden Manager Michelle Krieg had previously worked with this system in England and found it to be highly functional, pest proof, easy to manage, and reliable for processing all types of food scraps – even meat and small bones! She especially loved how its continuous-flow technology required minimal hauling and turning labor. OAEC is now one of the first demonstration sites on the West Coast of the USA to be using this highly efficient solution for food scrap recycling.

compost in hands

The Ridan Pro in action

Each week, the OAEC garden team adds 10-20 5-gal buckets of food scraps into the composter, along with organic-approved wood pellets in a 6:1 Nitrogen-Carbon ratio. After its daily feeding, they turn the hand-crank for around three minutes to incorporate new material and also aerate any decomposing material inside the unit.

It takes about 3-4 weeks for food to move through the composter, heating up to 140-160F through a natural thermophilic decomposition process. As new material is incorporated each day, fresh compost is also released through the other end of the composter, which is then stored in a maturation bin for 2-3 more months until it’s ready to use in the gardens.

Over the last four months OAEC has already processed around 4000 pounds (155 5-gal buckets) of food scraps into beautiful, fluffy compost (shown at the top of this post). The continual flow-through and constant turning of this technology has reduced the processing time from ~9 months to only 3-4 months, allowing OAEC to not only increase the volume of food scraps they’re able to process, but also accumulate more compost in bulk. This, in turn, will facilitate the Mother Garden’s transition towards a “no dig” growing approach which requires amending a thick 2″ layer of compost on our beds each year.

Ridan Pro exploded diagram

All in all, OAEC have been impressed with the results of their new “revolutionary” addition to their suite of composting options!

You can view their review on their website:

Find out more about the Occidental Arts & Ecology center