My first real taste of the local power of community composting came in 2013, while touring various sites in New York City. The dedication and inspiration of the individuals involved was — and still is — intoxicating. So it was with great joy that I read a profile posted on May 13 in the New York Times about Domingo Morales, the founder of Compost Power, who cut his composting teeth at the Added Value/Red Hook Farm community composting operation in Brooklyn while in his teens. Morales came to Red Hook Farm as a member of Green City Force — a nonprofit that trains young people from public housing for solar installation, horticulture and other green jobs.
Morales became director of Red Hook Farms, replacing his mentor David Buckel, who passed away in 2018. In 2020, he was let go when the Red Hook Farms composting site lost funding early in the pandemic. He decided to launch Compost Power, whose mission is to “build out sustainable community compost sites across New York City (NYC) with an emphasis on ‘underserved and marginalized’ communities, and to create an educational compost video series, providing all residents with access to waste equity, sustainable education, and job training,” notes the website. “By providing infrastructure and education to underserved communities, we can give them the power to take over those systems and create their own economic sustainability by generating programs that can harbor jobs and careers.” Adds Morales: “That’s basically what Compost Power is about. I chose ‘Compost Power’ as the name because I’m using compost to bring power back to the community.”
To help fund Compost Power, Morales applied for the David Prize, a newly created award for NYC residents with “big ideas.” He received the $200,000 grant in October 2020 and today has compost systems at public housing sites in all five boroughs of NYC. Most are operated in collaboration with Green City Force’s urban vegetable farms and serve NYC Housing Authority residents. According to the New York Times article, Morales “has a paid staff of nine, all young public housing tenants. … The sites have produced at least 30 tons of finished compost, all directly added to adjoining farms.”
Nora Goldstein, Editor