Lynchburg Grows knows much about taking old things and making them new.
Fewer than 20 years ago, the seven-acre site near University of Lynchburg was an abandoned rose farm with overgrown, dilapidated greenhouses. Today, it’s an urban farm that provides fresh produce to hundreds of people in the city.
Thanks to a group of University of Lynchburg students, Lynchburg Grows will now be able to turn food scraps into rich soil. The Management Consulting Group, a group of students who tackle real-world consulting projects each semester, is helping the nonprofit farm develop a composting program that will teach people throughout the community how to compost and provide rich, natural fertilizer for Lynchburg Grows.
“This project will allow the Lynchburg community to come together and help the earth by reducing our carbon footprint,” said Lizzy Fesen ’17, president of the Management Consulting Group.
The project began last semester when Erika Mork, a local advancement consultant, attended a sustainability event at University of Lynchburg last fall. She spoke with Dr. Laura Henry-Stone, a professor of environmental science, about a recent conference she had attended about climate changes, global affairs, and the digital age. By attending the U.S. State Department-sponsored event, Mork was eligible to team up with other Fulbright Scholars alumni to apply for a grant. Dr. Henry-Stone suggested a composting pilot with Lynchburg Grows, and Mork connected with Lynchburg management professor Dr. Maria Nathan, another Fulbright alumna. They received the grant and got students of Dr. Nathan and Dr. Henry-Stone involved.
Their project, titled “Building Soil and Community: An Educational Composting Pilot,” aims to help Lynchburg Grows supply its own composting material and expand the project throughout the community.
“This could make Lynchburg more progressive in the matter of sustainability,” Dr. Nathan said.
The Management Consultant Group worked with Lynchburg Grows to devise ways to raise awareness of sustainability and build composting bins. The students also asked local communities — including individuals, restaurants, and organizations with food service operations — for food scraps that Lynchburg Grows could compost.
Tori Travers ’17 said community involvement is key to making the program sustainable. She has helped construct composting bins and identify what kinds of scraps can be composted so that the public can learn how to compost.
By sending food scraps for the composting projects, people can support Lynchburg Grows’ efforts to grow produce in a sustainable way. If the farm receives enough scraps, it may even be able to generate enough compost to sell some to local gardeners.
Composting helps the environment by keeping food out of landfills, where decomposing materials generate excess methane. Composting also traps carbon in soil and helps replenish nutrients in garden plots.
The project will culminate in a public composting workshop from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 6, at Lynchburg Grows. People who attend will be able to tour the Lynchburg Grows farm, learn about backyard composting, and find out how they can participate in the onsite composting pilot project. Free composting buckets will be given out while supplies last.
By studying other communities that have a viable business model as well as by engaging the public, LC students have gained valuable, hands-on experience with helping an organization meet its goals. Their work will help educate the Lynchburg community about sustainable progress and ensure the composting project could generate revenue for Lynchburg Grows.
“They have turned out to be tremendous assets on this project,” Mork said.
“Building Soil and Community: An Educational Composting Pilot,” is funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by World Learning.