“Is there really that much to know about composting?” my husband asked me the other day. We were looking out into our backyard, where an endless cycle of falling oak leaves,  growing weeds, and the living and dying drama of small critters takes place without seeming to need any input from us.

Turns out the answer is, yes, of course there is! There is so much to know about composting– and a room-full of participants and I learned all about it at Nature Director Merideth Konkel’s Composting Basics Workshop on Monday.

Composting makes controlled and purposeful use of a beautiful natural process. Merideth’s class covered the basic how-tos of composting and vermicomposting (with worms) at home, as well as the science behind it all. It was fascinating!

Everyone in the class marveled at the wonder of worms— and psychrophiles, mesophiles and thermophiles, three classes of bacteria responsible for the microscopic magic that transforms orange rinds and eggshells (aka our waste stream) into “life-infused,” “nutrient dense” soil… and then into nourishing food for our bodies.

the wonder of worms

Discovering wiggly worms! Raquel and daughter Mel at Sunflower’s Composting Basics Workshop.

As Roots & Shoots facilitator, Merideth helped create Sunflower’s new three-bin composting system, which was built by the five to 12-year-old “Shooting Stars” members. This system makes it possible for all families in our programs– as well as guests of the Family Promise initiative, families in need with whom Roots & Shoots shares food from our onsite garden– to witness the everyday miracle of composting. “What has been most surprising to me,” Merideth said, “is the keen interest the kids have had in the compost. First, they express disbelief, then wonder and surprise at how compost really happens!”

I have to say, I’m right there with them. Even before knowing how it all works, I’ve always been in awe of the simplicity and symmetry of this process that converts death back to new life. I know it’s ‘just dirt’… but to me it signifies a deeper connection that’s pretty profound.

It’s the idea of that connection– to the earth, to our food sources, to the synergy of the process and our place in it — that Merideth said she hoped we’d carry away from the class, and share with our families and communities. “If children grow up embracing these rhythms, they will naturally seek out ways to incorporate them as life-long, self-sustaining practices and, in turn, help make the world a better, healthier, happier place,” she said.

Which is, certainly, a cycle worth continuing.

© Jaime Greenberg and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2013