Autumn is here, which means fallen leaves need raking, gardens are ready to be cleaned up and put to bed until the spring, and Halloween jack-o-lanterns will start to wither with the frost following the festivities. Yard waste and kitchen food scraps might typically end up in a plastic bag and thrown in the garbage, but the new business Berkshire Compost can turn your organic matter into soil-enriching gold.
Berkshire Compost is a curbside pickup service available to both residential and commercial clients. Residents simply leave their bright yellow 5-gallon Berkshire Compost bucket full of food waste at the end of the driveway on pick-up day, and Melissa Beeson Higgins or her son and business partner Jack ride by on an electric bike and tow it to a local partner farm. For commercial clients with higher-volume material like restaurants or grocery stores, Melissa picks up their barrels with a truck. Like a garbage pick-up system, she offers her service by subscription. There’s even a team subscription, which is perfect for an apartment,office building, or group of neighbors. She aims to make composting easy. Unlike many backyard compost bins, she takes meat, bones, and dairy, in addition to fruit and vegetable scraps.
Why compost? Melissa describes that when food scraps and other organic matter get caught in waste streams and landfills, methane is produced and contributes to climate change. Soils fortified with compost have increased carbon-sequestering potential. “People want to be part of something that’s regenerative, not degenerative,” Melissa says. “It’s not about not doing something that’s bad for the environment; it’s about something that’s doing good.”
As a participant of the BerkShares Entry to Entrepreneurship program, Melissa was exposed to a supportive community of business leaders, mentors, and peers who validated her business idea. It was through this class that she honed her business plan and goals to stay hyper-local and remain an appropriate scale, citing economist E. F. Schumacher’s adage, “small is beautiful.” Instead of hauling everything to one location, Melissa has chosen to work with farms throughout the county who host the compost piles on-site. She does so in an effort to avoid driving from one end of the county to another, she says, which would be “contrary to our goals for energy efficiency.”
She realizes that her model is not without limitations, but she prefers to remain at a community scale rather than feeding into the endless growth model endemic to our society. The same could be said of all aspects of her life. Melissa is also a home-based family child care provider. She sees composting and child care as complimentary, saying, “keeping our soils healthy will keep our communities healthy, just like raising healthy children will.” Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic she’s observed the strength of local supply chains and support among members of the small business community. During this time it’s especially important to spend money with local businesses, and Melissa identifies BerkShares local currency as the perfect vehicle for showing support. “It’s a perfect match for our business and it’s exactly how I want our business to be - so local!”