Making Black Gold: Community Composting at North Fork Roasting Co.

The waste from this latte could help the garden growing in your yard. • Photo by North Fork Beaches

Love coffee? So do your plants! Coffee grounds are a great addition to compost because they’re high in nitrogen (one of the three main ingredients in fertilizer) and PH neutral (all that acid stays in the coffee you drink), and they help improve the structure of soil.

In an effort to operate as sustainably as possible, and inspired by both their staff and customers, North Fork Roasting Company will be starting a volunteer-run community compost program on their grounds (ha! pun intended).

Since coffee grounds are such a valuable compost component and the shop produces lots of them, it’s a win-win for everyone.

“We want to help our local farms and customers who garden, and at the same time reduce and re-use our waste,” said owner Jennilee Morris, who owns the roastery together with her fiancée, Jess Dunne.

Volunteers will turn the compost, and take what they need when it’s ready. They may also earn a free cup of coffee or two in the process. Compost bins will be placed in the shop and kitchen, so customers and staff can separate food waste that can be composted from garbage that will go to the landfill.

The program is spearheaded by one of the baristas, Priscilla Jordan, who also works at Biophilia Organic Farm in Jamesport and is the resident compost expert. Volunteer composters will also be encouraged to bring leaves and other organic materials to create a healthy, well-balanced compost that is a welcoming home to beneficial bacteria. It’s important to have the right mix of nitrogen-rich materials (like coffee grounds and other food wastes, including tea and egg shells) and carbon-rich materials (leaves, coffee filters and other paper products, including newspapers). The nitrogen-rich materials, along with their accompanying happy bacteria, create and maintain heat and moisture in the compost.

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cupping & over caffeinated

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Compost is an essential component of sustainable agriculture. As opposed to conventional agriculture’s reliance on chemical fertilizers, which often make their way into our waterways and exacerbate the rising nitrogen levels in Peconic Bay, compost provides plants with nutrients that are released more slowly over time, increasing both the health of the plant and reducing the risk of unintended runoff. In addition, while chemical fertilizers may only provide the big three nutrients plants need (nitrogen, phosporus and potassium), well-made compost includes micronutrients that are equally essential to plant (and human) health: minerals like zinc, iron, and magnesium. Compost also helps regulate soil moisture, a trait that will only become more important as our summers continue to get hotter and drier.

Composting can actually help fight climate change, too. Food waste is the third largest component by weight in landfills (the average person produces 475 pounds per year) and it gives off methane as it rots, contributing to the greenhouse effect. Hauling it to the landfill also creates a carbon footprint including gas consumption. Not to mention the cost for a small business.

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lunch break 🍴

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Just like in cooking, it’s important to know your ingredients when making compost. While the composting process breaks down many pesticides, there are certain herbicides that are very resistant to being broken down and can be lethal to legumes, potatoes, tomatoes, sunflowers and related plants. Municipal composting programs like the one at the Cutchogue transfer station accept materials from all sources, including from landowners who may be applying synthetic pesticides.

The program will be a pilot of sorts, and once it’s up and running at the Roastery, the crew plans to set up a similar program across the street at their sister kitchen, Grace and Grit, also run by Jennilee. If you’re interested in getting involved, ask your barista next time you stop in for your caffeine fix.