The Oneida Composting Project

Progress report for FNC21-1313

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $8,718.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Oneida Nation
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
William VerVoort
Oneida Nation
Expand All

Project Information

Description of operation:

This grant allowed us to start a community composting program. We hosted composting activities once a month starting in June of 2021. At this first workshop we give the participants a test to check their knowledge of composting principles. As a group they scored 40% correct answers. At our last composting workshop which was held in September of 2021 we again gave the group the same test, and they scored 81% correct.
Before receiving this grant, the Oneida Nation’s organic farm did carry out sustainable practices. They actually did many different types of activities around sustainability, but the one that is most prevalent for these purposes would be the community compost mounds. Where this grant concentrated on utilizing a tumbler and bin for composting, the farm had mounds which they would occasionally turn.

Summary:

There are 15,272 American Indians living in the Outagamie County-Brown County area. Beginning in the late 19th century and continuing to today the American Indian people living in this area have had much of their traditional agricultural culture stripped from them of which composting was a major part. This project will reintroduce various traditional activities related to soil preservation and enhancement and their effects on food production and nutrition. It is our belief that by bringing Native people back to their traditional food production and consumption methods we can improve their health, strengthen the community’s food sovereignty and food chain, and increase the community’s access to fresh foods. Our project would introduce several types of usable composting units onto our farm and make them available to the community as a means of disposing of food waste and later as a location where composted materials can be obtained for gardening and crop production. We would focus on the use of composters as tools not just for commercial or personal use, but as a tool for the preservation and protection of the environment. Our project would also, in addition to demonstrations, include the sharing of educational materials with local school districts.

Project Objectives:
  1. To reintroduce various traditional activities related to soil preservation and enhancement.
    At our workshops, we not only demonstrated and presented composting handouts to the participants, but we also discussed the importance of soil health and various techniques to improve soil health. Some of the articles/topics discussed were: Healthy Soils = Healthy Food,
    What is Ending Up in Wisconsin Landfills, The World Waste’s 1 Billion Tons of Food a Year and Sustainability.
  2. To assist Native producers, including farmers market producers to utilize compost production methods as a means of improving soil health and increasing garden production.
    At each of the monthly workshops we always were sure to not only demonstrate various composting methods, but also gave the participants literature that they could take home with them. Some of the topics discussed were: Things You Didn’t Know You Could Compost, A Beginner’s Guide to Composting, Easy Steps to Prevent Food Waste and Trench Composting With Kitchen Scraps. Partnered with Iowa State University to give access to the following YouTube videos: How to Take a Soil Sample, How to Test Soil Health, How to Complete the DIY (Do It Yourself) Aggregate Stability Test, How to Complete the DIY Bulk Density Test, How to Complete the DIY Water Holding Capacity Test, and How to Complete the DIY Earthworm Abundance Test.
  3. To demonstrate several types of usable composting units and make them available to the community for their use.
    The demonstrations/workshops that we hosted in 2021 utilized a 106-gallon tumbler to demonstrate and create compost that the community participants could then take home with them and put in their gardens. We also furnished them with a food grade 5 gallon bucket for this purpose. A 2 Ton Fermenting Bin was also purchased with this grant, and we hope to utilize that in our 2022 demonstrations/workshops.
  4. To introduce the next generation of agriculture producers to the idea of composting as a farming tool.
    We were able to arrange for a 10th grade class from the Oneida High School to come out to our composting worksite and participate in a demonstration before school was let out. During the summer demonstrations we had 2 community youth that attended our demonstrations. During the early fall months, we purchased a publication entitled ‘Composting For Youth’ which we will distribute to the Oneida High School this spring.
  5. To share our findings with local community through newspaper articles and on site demonstrations.
    We did share our finds through local newspapers including: the Tribal Kalihwisaks, Seymour Advertising News, Freedom Pursuit and Coffee News. In addition, we posted them on the Oneida Farmers Market social media outlets: Facebook, LinkIn, and Google.

Research

Materials and methods:

The project steps will include:

  1. The development and collection of educational materials including handouts for hands-on demonstrations and expanded education materials selected to work in conjunction with local school classes and farm visits.
  2. The project will purchase the composting equipment using a 3-bid process to identify the best available price for the products required.
  3. The project will be announced in local newspapers and online to encourage participation and to solicit support in the form of donated compostable materials at the farm.
  4. The readied compost will be used on the farm to improve farm soil for growing Oneida White Corn
  5. In the latter stages of the project compost will be distributed to community small farmers and gardeners.
  6. Crops will be harvested and compared to previous harvests.
  7. Participants will be continually surveyed to determine the success of the project. All of these activities will be conducted throughout the project and beyond.  

The primary target of the project will be Tsyunhehkwa’s white corn field which currently produces at a rate 1/3 that of other corn producers in the area. The alternate locations will be community managed small farms and gardens.  We do not anticipate using test plots as we have substantial data available related to Tsyunhehkwa’s previous production level.

We will promote participation through the use of local advertising, handouts at our farmer’s market,  and community word of mouth. Methods to be used will focus on hands-on learning and observation, the use of education handouts to explain the efficacy of compost as a soil mediator, its value as a growth stimulator, and its value to the environment and water supply. We will reproduce certain educational materials to be laminated for preservation and backward referral.   

Participation Summary
1 Farmer participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Consultations
16 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
5 On-farm demonstrations
9 Online trainings
10 Published press articles, newsletters
5 Webinars / talks / presentations
5 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

15 Farmers
15 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Our outreach to date has been a mix of hands-on demonstrations and workshops for community members.

We researched various handouts and shared slides on topics such as: soil health, Native gardening & composting. We worked with Iowa State University to access informational YouTube videos for participants.

We hosted monthly demonstrations/workshops from May through September. In May we hosted the 10th grade class from the Oneida High School where we had 18 youth in attendance. Throughout the summer we had 15 agricultural professionals who attended our monthly demonstrations and 2 youth also attended.

At these demonstrations/workshops we provided folders with handouts in them for community members to take home and continue to utilize. These were the informational handouts that were provided: Healthy Soils = Healthy Food, How to Compost-a brief guide to get you started,
A Beginner’s Guide to Composting, The World Waste’s 1 Billion Tons of Food a Year, Easy Steps to Prevent Food Waste, Trench Composting With Kitchen Scraps, New USDA to Promote the Reduction of Food Waste, Composting For Kids, How to Make Superior Compost, Things You Didn’t Know You Could Compost, What is Ending Up in Wisconsin Landfills, What Can and Cannot be Composted and Sustainability.

We also realized that in this day and age, many people do not take the time to read. To address that problem, we partnered up with Iowa State University to provide educational videos that the participants could watch. These videos varied from only a couple of minutes long to a couple of hours. The topics discussed were: How to Take a Soil Sample, How to Test Soil Health, How to Complete the DIY (Do It Yourself), Aggregate Stability Test, How to Complete the DIY Bulk Density Test, How to Complete the DIY Water Holding Capacity Test, How to Complete the DIY Earthworm Abundance Test, Native Gardening Workshop I, Native Gardening Workshop II and Composting 101.

These videos can be seen at https://threesistersproject.language.iastate.edu/learn/

We utilized local newspapers to get the information out which included: the Tribal Kalihwisaks, Seymour Advertising News, Freedom Pursuit and Coffee News. The Kalihwisaks goes out to all the Oneida Nation Tribal members. The other newspapers go out to a couple of small communities located close to Oneida and a large rural surrounding area. These newspapers reach approximately 15,000 people.

We also utilized the Oneida Nation ‘Update Oneida’ email blasts which goes out to all the employees of the Nation. In addition, we posted them on the Oneida Farmers Market social media outlets: Facebook, LinkIn, and Google. The Oneida Farmers Market social outlets goes out across the State of Wisconsin and even further. Combined these 3 social platforms have 11,200 followers.

Due to the constant pressures from the COVID pandemic, the Oneida Nation would not allow us to hold events in 2021. We are hoping that we will be out of the COVID restrictions in 2022 and then we will have informational booths at the following events: Oneida Farmers Market, Oneida Harvest Fest and Oneida Big Apple Fest.SARE Grant Press ReleasesCommunity Workshop AnnouncementsComposting scheduleWorkshop Sign-in sheetsCompost QuizBeginner CompostingFood Waste handoutsHow to Compost handoutsSoil Health handoutsSoil informational handoutsTrench Composting handouts

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.