What happens when the fruit and veggies at your local grocery store go bad? Farmer D goes to Athens, Ga. and talks with two colleagues about transforming thousands of pounds of green waste each week into Farmer D Organic Compost. Learn more about Farmer D and his partnership with Whole Foods stores. (Nick Scott/MNN)


Farmer D: Hi, I am Farmer D. I am here with Charles James from Whole Foods who handles all of the compost logistics from the stores to the compost facilities and I am here with Mark McConnell who is composting here, we're outside of Athens, Ga.
And today we are here, we got a load of about 40,000 pounds of Whole Foods waste, a bunch of rotten veggies and fruit. And we are mixing and mushing and turning it into some really beautiful compost.

I want to talk to Charles for a minute here about how you get this product to us.

Charles: We gather about 50,000-60,000 pounds of the trimmings from the fruits and vegetables, all natural and organic, and we gather it up and put it in our compost bins and bring it down and do two loads weekly. We spend quite a bit of hours, manpower, you know in getting the compost picked up and getting it brought back down here.

Farmer D: Mark's been composting for a long time and is passionate about it.  Mark, tell us a little bit about how you got into this, why you do it, what you love about what you do out here?

Mark: Well, I grew up with two parents that gardened quite a bit, so it was kind of in my blood, playing in the soil.

Farmer D: What would you tell a group of school kids about compost?

Mark: It is the stuff that we came from. Compost is like the essence of life. And these thermophiles and microbes that grow in the compost take these organics in the compost and turn them back into soil and then the plants can absorb those nutrients and give us oxygen. These bacteria are processing this food waste and turning it into energy and then in that process of making soil, they are generating this heat, which we can use for other purposes: heating water or possibly even turning turbines or generating methane through anaerobic bacteria. So there's a lot of different ways that we can use this kind of energy. It doesn't belong in the landfill, it needs to go back to the soil.

Farmer D: There is no such thing as "away." You can't just throw things away. You've got to take more ownership of the earth as being ours.

Mark: You are responsible for everything you do for the rest of your life. (Laughter) That is the way I like to tell it.


In the Field: Creating compost on a massive scale
Video: What happens when the fruits and veggies at your local grocery store go bad?