Grow Amsterdam NY going online

AMSTERDAM — Grow Amsterdam NY was set to launch its spring programming — and had a full calendar of environmental workshops lined up through June — when the coronavirus pandemic hit New York.

Compost Works food scrap orientations, home composting workshops, a “Green up Your Cleanup” workshop on alternatives to household toxic cleaning chemicals, and re-usable T-shirt bag workshops were all put on hold.

Going forward, Grow Amsterdam NYs programming will shift to online. Webinars, Zoom meetings, and Facetime video chats have replaced in person workshops and hands-on learning.

The first online offering will be the Compost Works Orientation webinar scheduled for Tuesday at 3 p.m.

“With people staying home and cooking more; we want to let them know it doesn’t have to go in the trash,” said Bernadette Twente the founder of Grow Amsterdam NY. “Composting is an essential service and Grow Amsterdam NY continues to collect food scraps.”

Through Compost Works, Grow Amsterdam NY established a food scrap collection program in Amsterdam to divert organics from the waste stream and create compost. The program, funded by the Pollution Prevention Institute — P2I — at RIT, began collecting food scraps from community members in November. More than 30 residents have attended food scrap orientations for the Compost Works initiative of Grow Amsterdam NY.

“It is important for people to learn what we accept for composting in the community garden,” said Twente. “The food scrap drop off program is a good fit for those who don’t want to, or can’t compost at home.”

Grow Amsterdam has made adjustments to the collection process, including scheduling drop off timeslots with Doodle, to keep participants separated. Participants weigh their containers, and empty them into a collection tray.

“We don’t touch anyone’s bucket, keep a safe distance away and wear a mask and gloves,” said program manager Tom Twente. “This procedure has worked well the past month and we will continue this way for the foreseeable future.”

“We’ve collected people’s food scraps every Saturday since we started in November,” said Tom Twente.

Community members have dropped off close to 1,000 pounds of food scraps.

“Even in the dead of winter the compost process continues” said Tom Twente. “It was 5 degrees out during one collection day and the pile was 135 degrees and steaming hot.”

Vegetable peels, coffee grounds (filter included), fruit peels, egg shells and other scraps are turning into compost. The compost will be used in the 78 Wall St. community garden’s vegetable beds to improve the soil. “Composting is an essential service in New York state and we will continue to collect food scraps safely,” said Tom Twente.

More than 30 residents attended food scrap orientations for the Compost Works initiative of Grow Amsterdam NY. The orientations were held at Amsterdam Free Library. The orientation covers the goals of Compost Works, and goes over what is and is not accepted for composting. The short presentation shows off different containers that people can use to collect food scraps and provides tips for getting started: Chop scraps into small pieces, and remove the stickers from banana peels and other produce. Meat, dairy, grease, oils and fats, and cooked leftovers are not accepted because they can create odors and attract animals.

After receiving an orientation, anyone who wishes to participate can drop off food scraps once a week on Saturdays at the 78 Wall St. community garden as long as they pick a timeslot from the schedule online.

“It’s easy, we send everyone an email with a link to the calendar and they pick a time” said Tom Twente.

Grow Amsterdam NY is presenting home composting webinars for community members who are interested in starting a compost system at home.

“People are thinking about self-sufficiency in these uncertain times, and want to grow vegetables. Compost is the cornerstone of a home vegetable garden,” said Bernadette Twente.

Grow Amsterdam NY is offering virtual assistance for residents who want advice with, or need help troubleshooting their current compost setup.

The first Home Composting webinar will be Thursday at 3 p.m.

To learn more about Grow Amsterdam NY, view the schedule of upcoming Compost Works Orientations and register for workshops visit

By Kerry Minor

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