Hometown: Ord Bend, CA
Program Position: Compost Education Coordinator
In 2009 Ashley signed up for a one unit “sampler” internship at AS Sustainability to get a feel for all the options the program had to offer. She sampled a wide array of program activities: a Bidwell Park clean-up, the Take Back the Tap campaign, planting and growing at the compost area, and a tour of Sierra Nevada’s sustainability efforts. Then she headed abroad for a semester to study in Brighton, England. Upon her return, Ashley attended a composting workshop and became good friends with the student educator. She recognized Ashley’s passion for all things sustainable and suggested that Ashley would make a great compost education coordinator. So, with that encouragement, Ashley applied for the position and is currently filling her year-long commitment as one of two Compost Education Coordinators.
Ashley sums up her “curriculum” this way. “I educate our interns, other students, and community members on how to compost: different types of composting (hot compost versus worm bins), what you can and can’t put in a compost pile, how the material breaks down, and how the ultimate product can be used as plant food.” The compost display (CDA) area boasts a garden which is evidence of how well the “closed loop” cycle works. The co-coordinators and the interns have the freedom to decide what will be grown each year. “Sometimes we harvest seeds and other times we purchase them depending on what we want to grow.” Currently the garden is producing fennel, onion, garlic, chard, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage. Ashley comes from a farming background so her passion for planting and tending is deeply “rooted.” At the CDA she has been able to indulge her desire to plant an herb garden and learn about the medicinal properties of various herbs. And an added bonus of working in the program is that she and the interns get to take home fresh produce!
The CDA has open hours (check their website for the schedule) and the public is welcome to drop in for tours. Composting workshops are offered regularly. Ashley and her co-coordinator Marco Poort invite faculty to bring their classes to the CDA for a 45 minute presentation to familiarize students with the options they have for composting whether they have a yard or live in an apartment or residence hall. She credits the opportunity to talk with these groups for vastly improving her public speaking skills. “I love to work outside and to teach people what I’ve learned and what I do. It’s important to me to know where my food comes from, how it was grown, and how best to prepare it. I want to share that knowledge. It’s very rewarding to know you can motivate people.”
Ashley is still contemplating her plans for the future. She has three very different but compelling interests: researching and growing medicinal herbs, going to culinary school, or working with orca whales! She’s not sure which path to take, but she’s eager to explore the possibilities.
In Ashley’s words:
You don’t have to throw away any food scraps. It can all be diverted from landfills where it would otherwise create methane gas as it slowly decomposes. Instead, you can create amazing plant food which is natural and organic.