2013-10-31 / Front Page

From Farm to Table to Garden

By Tom Shevlin

When you put good things in, you tend to get good things out. At least that's how composting maven Phil Hadley and Matt Plumb, of Newport's Brick Alley Pub, see things.

For the past few months, the pair have been leading a resurgent interest in food scrap composting as a means to create a more sustainable Aquidneck Island, collecting small bits of food from area kitchens to supply a small organic composting and farming operation off Green End Avenue in Middletown.

And while the growing season may be coming to a close, on a recent chilly Wednesday morning they found themselves knee-deep in the fruit of their labor.

Joined by City Councilwoman Jeanne-Marie Napolitano and several Pell Elementary School children, the group celebrated the deposit of what Hadley estimat- ed would be several more carloads of rich dark soil for the Pell School's new assembly of raised garden beds.

The compost – which was cultivated over the summer through a pilot program with a few island restaurants, most notably Plumb's – will now serve as foundation for the herbs and other assorted plants that will soon take root in the southwest corner of the schoolyard.

The site is modest, tucked between the gym and a freshlyplanted crop of daffodils, not too far from the basketball court and monkey bars.

But, according to proponents, it holds some real potential.

Hadley, who has been actively working with state and local officials to promote what he hopes will be nothing short of a composting revolution on Aquidneck Island, donated the soil mixture as a way to help educate this next generation of farmers and consumers to the real world application and associated benefits of composting.

For her part, Napolitano said that she's been composting for years and has seen firsthand how much waste can be eliminated from our trash piles if people were to adopt the age-old practice in their homes.

All agreed that the gardens at the Pell School, which have become a focal point of sorts for members of the City Council, School Committee, and the environmental community, seem to be the ideal venue for churning up interest in the practice.

Hadley said that he is also in talks with state regulators to expand his operation, which is currently located on a small plot of land owned by the Aquidneck Land Trust and managed by Sustainable Aquidneck and Garman Farms.

If all goes well, next season Hadley hopes to engage with more local restaurant owners to make composting more than just a niche movement, but rather a way of life on the island.

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