Kevin Anderson is passionate about dirt.
On a hot, muggy summer afternoon, he stands near a 10-foot-by-15-foot, oblong-shaped mound of rich, black soil and points out the layers that have been carefully laid down to create an earthy lasagna.
His “recipe” for making compost: a base of yard waste (grass clippings, tree leaves, brush, etc.) and bales of sausage casings from Sara Lee in St. Joseph alternating with layers of decomposing supermarket produce – from bananas to watermelons and the cardboard boxes they were shipped in. Into a trench dug across the top of the mound, known in the recycling trade as a windrow, he pours a slurry of potato peelings from Mr. Dell Foods in Kearney.
Faint ripples of steam rise, and if you dared to stick a hand into the middle, it would feel quite warm to the touch because the microbes at work generate close to 140 degrees of heat. For the next 15 weeks, it will be Anderson’s job to take the windrow’s temperature with a thermometer, adding and subtracting ingredients to balance the amount of moisture, air, carbon and nitrogen.
In less than five years, the vice president of marketing and sales of Missouri Organic has become the area’s reigning king of compost. That puts the Kansas City company, which Anderson, 36, runs with his father, Dave, and his brother Jason, on the leading edge of a green initiative to change how we get rid of our leftovers.
“People understand food waste a little better than yard waste,” Anderson says. “It’s a personal issue. Everyone eats three times a day.”