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The Quabbin Composting and Organic Gardening Program was conceived in 2007. After Karen DiFranza, director of the QCOGP found success with the program she implemented at a local elementary school, she decided to begin a similar program at the Quabbin Regional High School. In partnership with the East Quabbin Alliance for a Healthy Community (EQUAL), Karen approached the high school administration and received approval to do a waste audit and launch the program.

Hands To Earth: Educating for a Sustainable Future

Quabbin's movement for sustainability began one cold March Saturday in 2008, when a group of high school students and parent volunteers from the community gathered at the school to begin constructing the on-site compost bins.

building bins

In the spirit of sustainability, we built the base of the bins using locally harvested, rot-resistant locust wood. Once the base was built, volunteers used white pine (also locally harvested) to construct the sides of the bins.

building bins

The frame of the bins went up in about a day. The next step was to line the compartments with half-inch hardware cloth, which is essential in preventing rodents from having access to the compost. Another advantage of using hardware cloth is its ability to let air circulate though the bins, keeping the compost aerated, which is essential to aerobic decomposition. Our bin models are 12x12 feet, and contain four different compartments. These compartments store multiple batches of compost, as well as dry carbon-based material that is mixed with the food scraps to help them decompose aerobically. We also included sixteen hinged doors that aid in accessing the bins' content when it is time to stir or use the materials.

Once the bins were complete, compost collection could begin in the school cafeteria. We then began preparing the garden space, creating garden beds from donated compost. Volunteers planted the garden for a fall harvest of greens, and kitchen staff began serving spinach and lettuce in the high school cafeteria. In the winter that followed, our outreach began when we gave our first presentation featuring our work at the 2009 MassDEP Organics Recycling Summit.

building bins

The following summer the program took off, as we began raising produce to sell at the Barre Farmer's Market and to donate to the Barre Food Bank. Since our beginnings, the QCOGP has grown – in numbers, in the size of our garden, and in recognition. As we continue to move forward, we still always carry with us our goal of educating for a sustainable future.

To view find information and photos from the bin-building process, feel free to visit our web album.

For more information and inspiration about educational experiences that will help to ensure a sustainable future, please visit Hands To Earth.

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