It's All About The Soil

Posted: August 9, 2016

Each semester, students participate in a number of on-campus initiatives focusing on practical, sustainable habits that can be implemented on large- and small-scale farm sites, in homes, and as a part of community-based projects. Additionally, throughout the Natural Resource Management course, students are exposed to the idea of soil conservation as a keystone to protecting the rich diversity of plant and animal species alike that depend on the intricate web of soil life.


Farm crew, Guillermo and Don Ernesto, planting herbs in new compost beds.

Coupling sustainable practices with soil conservation brings us to compost. The SFS Center for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS) in Atenas, Costa Rica has created a compost system to maximize the external inputs such as food scraps, internal inputs of cow and chicken manure, as well as leaves and soil from the property and contribute to the nutrient cycle. On a daily basis, food scraps are collected from the kitchen food preparation along with leftover food, cow and chicken manure are collected from the farm and everything is mixed with layers of composted soil and leaves. The piles are left to heat up, ferment, and eventually convert into a rich composite of new soil that is then added to the garden beds that produce fresh, organic vegetables and herbs.


Center cow, Clara, mowing the grass.

Composting is nothing new; many civilizations have left traces of myriad compost techniques. This type of cycling of nutrients, as simple and slow as it is, has sustained life for as long as plants and animals have existed. The forest, with its natural processes designed to effectively recycle nutrients, is our best teacher. We hope that by mimicking the forest’s composting genius, we will increase sustainability on our increasingly human-altered landscapes by producing healthy, wholesome food while simultaneously contributing to soil longevity.


Center chickens.


Cow and chicken manure being processed before it’s added to compost piles.


Kitchen compost bins.


Kitchen compost bin, up close and personal.


A compost pile.


Another compost pile.


Sweet chili pepper.


Don Ernesto harvesting lettuce from the campus greenhouse.

→ Sustainable Development Studies in Costa Rica