Upcycling Local Waste Streams to Boost Urban Farm Productivity

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2021: $26,883.00
Projected End Date: 10/15/2023
Grant Recipient: Ridge to Reefs, Inc.
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Paul Sturm
Ridge to Reefs

Information Products

Slideshow BEAM etc (Conference/Presentation Material)


  • Fruits: berries (blueberries), berries (strawberries), melons
  • Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips
  • Animals: goats, poultry


  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, mentoring, technical assistance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: composting, soil analysis, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, employment opportunities, local and regional food systems, social networks, urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    One in four Baltimore residents live in "food desserts" with limited access to healthy foods. Ridge to Reefs seeks to work closely with the Baltimore Compost Collective and it's associated farm, the Filbert Street Garden Urban Farm to produce critically important fertilizers and soil amendments from local, un-utilized waste, increasing their food production and profitability. A major goal of this project is lowering the cost of production associated with urban farming. The project team will accomplish this by utilizing readily available waste streams to provide all nutrition and fertility required for production. The costs of utilizing these novel inputs will be carefully documented and disseminated to other urban farmers in order to scale the broader impacts of this project. In order to achieve these objectives, the project team will 1) construct and operate five Johnson-Su bioreactors 2) produce 35-40 gallons of fish hydrolysate fertilizer and 3) generate 30-50 cubic feet of bokashi compost from local wastes. These products will then be applied to production areas at Filbert Street Garden and soil health and production will be compared to control areas. We will carefully document the resulting changes in agronomic productivity, soil health and cost of production. 2-3 farm workshops will be held in order to train local youth, home gardeners, urban farmers and residents in these simple and effective methods that will improve food security, provide educational and employment opportunities, and divert waste from the local incinerator. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project will work with the staff at Filbert Street Garden/ BCC to:

    1) initiate new composting methods including 5 new BEAM bioreactors and one Bokashi Composting system. BEAM produces a fungal dominant compost that improves yields and Bokashi compost allows for the processing of both meat and dairy which reduces waste to landfills. We will determine if these methods are viable for urban farms and if they help to increase production of healthy fresh vegetables by conducting side by side trials in raised beds.

    2)  make fish hydrolysate to be used as fertilizer. Fish scraps will be collected from seafood wholesalers and used to make high quality fish hydrolysate fertilizer to reduce costs of urban farming and create a more circular economy around urban food systems. The performance will be compared to organic fertilizers normally used by urban farms.

    3) share results with other urban farms (3-5) and 50 home gardeners  on soil health and production improvements as measured by Cornell’s CASH analysis through 2-3 workshops and presentation at an annual sustainable agriculture conference as well and 3 how to videos co-produced with the Youth Composters and BCC

    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.