The NSR Master Composter Program

Program Overview

The NSR Master Composter course involves roughly 15 hours of classroom instruction and 15 hours of hands-on fieldwork and covers Composting Science, Soil Science, Compost Testing, Pile Building, Community Engagement, and more. Each participant also commits to 30 hours of community service and to completing a “capstone” composting project. As a train-the-trainer program, the NSR facilitates a cultural shift through diffusion, by establishing leaders and networks that enable the continued sharing of composting know-how.

“Master composter” train-the-trainer programs are not new. But common programs don’t emphasize the art and science of hot composting at the community-scale level such as at schools, urban farms, and community gardens. Composting at this level is an effective way to engage youth, gardeners, and other members of the community in the act of cycling food waste into a valuable soil amendment to grow more food. By working with the sustainable and urban agriculture movements, we are linking composting and healthy soils to each other and to the intrinsic relationship between agriculture, community health, and community prosperity. These new generation of “master composters” are essential to create an army of volunteers who understand composting and its benefits, and who will push for policies and programs to expand food scrap composting. 

Course Description

The Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders’ Master Composter course provides an experiential learning environment for participants: half of the course takes place in the classroom and half in the field, doing hands-on training.

This course covers the following topics:

  • an introduction to composting at all scales
  • the small-scale composting process, beginning to end
  • best management practices for avoiding nuisance issues
  • how to test and use finished compost
  • onsite composting systems
  • techniques for engaging community participation
  • compost site tour (optional)
  • compost bin building workshop (optional)
  • vermicomposting or worm composting (optional)

Course Requirements

The Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders’ Master Composter course has four main requirements: attendance of all classes; implementation of a capstone project; completion of 30 hours of supported community composting service; and tracking and sharing community service hours and work completed. Participants have six months from the last class to complete the capstone project and community service components.

For the capstone project component, participants support or initiate a community composting project based on their interests and the needs of the community they are serving. Participants are encouraged to collaborate on supporting an existing community composting project. Potential projects might include building and managing compost bins at community gardens, schools, churches, or working at compost demonstration sites. 

For the community service component, participants are expected to log 30 hours of community composting service. Half of these hours will be spent providing hands-on composting support to a community in need. Participants are responsible for tracking their service hours and must submit a report on their capstone project in order to receive a certificate of completion.

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