The USCC and the NC Composting Council use the CL2 for their annual Compost Operators Training Course.

October 24, 2016 | General

North Carolina’s Compost Learning Lab


Based at NC State University, the facility has more than 20 different types of backyard composting and vermicomposting units and a small ASP operation.

Rich Flammer
BioCycle October 2016
The USCC and the NC Composting Council use the CL2 for their annual Compost Operators Training Course.

The USCC and the NC Composting Council use the CL2 for their annual Compost Operators Training Course. Photo by Rhonda Sherman

The North Carolina (NC) State Compost Learning Lab (CL2) is a comprehensive regional training center that opened in 2001 and has been expanding ever since. The facility is the brainchild of NC State Extension Specialist Rhonda Sherman, who works in NC State’s Biological & Agricultural Engineering Department and developed and manages the CL2.  The Lab has more than 20 different types of backyard composting and vermicomposting units ranging in capacity from 50 gallons to 2 cubic yards. There is a 30-feet by 40-feet “Worm Barn” with about a dozen vermicomposting units inside, a covered teaching shelter and an equipment storage building. “I received $40,000 from the U.S. EPA in 2001 and used the money to buy the shed and build the teaching shelter and Worm Barn,” explains Sherman.
She teaches backyard composting and vermicomposting at the center. The US Composting Council (USCC) and NC Composting Council offer an annual 5-day Compost Operator Training Course (COTC) at the site. “There are four USCC COTCs around the country,” notes Sherman. “We are the only course to have a permanent facility with our own equipment.” Training session attendees include public and private composting operators, farmers, recycling specialists, extension educators and other governmental agency personnel.
The large selection of bins and technologies as well as feedstock storage areas allow educators to teach and demonstrate the biology, chemistry and physical processes of composting, technology selection, recipe mix formulation, site selection and preparation, odor control and end product marketing.
Sherman also conducts field tours at the CL2 as part of her annual vermicomposting conference. The annual event features comprehensive instruction from Sherman, as well as from world-renowned worm farmers, researchers, and vermicompost marketing experts. The worm bins on display range from household-size to an 8-foot by 5-foot continuous-flow reactor (with several styles in between, including a Worm Wigwam and an 8 square foot produce shipping bin used for vermicomposting).

Facility Footprint

The CL2 was developed on two acres. While owned by NC State, the CL2 depends on outside funds and volunteers to operate. “I was given $7,500 (by outside organizations) during the past year, which I’ve been using to renovate the Worm Barn and grade the site,” says Sherman. Last year, she was awarded an NCSU Sustainability Fund Grant to hire a student intern (“Compost Concierge”) to recruit and coordinate volunteers to do hands-on activities and demonstrations at the CL2. Current contributors and CL2 partners include Caterpillar, the NC State Sustainability Fund, NC State Waste Reduction and Recycling Office, NC Composting Council, City of Raleigh Solid Waste Services, Earth Farms, Ecoverse and McGill Environmental Systems.
A 24-feet by 24-feet aerated static pile was recently installed. Peter Moon of 02 Compost led a workshop on how farmers and other operators can use this type of system to manage animal manures, food scraps and other organic materials. Sherman plans to add windrows, and incorporate demonstration elements to teach storm water management using rain gardens, green roofs, native landscapes, and erosion control and slope stabilization with compost socks and blankets. “We intend to make this a state-of-the-art training facility, and the stars are finally aligning to make this happen,” notes Sherman.
Rich Flammer of Hidden Resources, a BioCycle Contributing Editor, is a composting and zero waste consultant (www.compostingconsultant.com)
 


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