GUEST COLUMN: Locally grown food can help this community |

GUEST COLUMN: Locally grown food can help this community

In mid-April, the Tribune published a front page article called “From Food to Dirt: Four Businesses Begin Composting Their Food Waste.” As mundane as that idea first appears, it is actually the beginning of a innovative and enterprising program to begin turning the tide of South Lake Tahoe’s unsustainable economy.

As South Lake Tahoe’s newly-minted Sustainability Commission ventures forth into a new world of rapidly-changing conditions, interest developed in doing something specific with a form of our current waste, food. This prompted a further look into sustenance as it applies in achieving the seemingly modest goal of sustainability.

With a changing climate, reliance on outside sources for energy, and increasing questions about our personal health, how does “food to dirt” become a strong answer to Lake Tahoe’s new era simply by a change to “food from dirt?”

What singular advantage comes from a conversion of food to dirt? One very good reason for the creation of great compost is due to its’ value as a growing medium – not necessarily in terms of the money it makes. Great compost can increase the community’s quality of life and well being by raising nutritional value and offering a closer connection to nature.

That’s where a Community Garden comes in. As people around the world become aware of losing their connection to their roots in this over-organized corporate world, they have rediscovered the simple sharing of the earth’s bounty. If they still aren’t very sustainable, they can at least enjoy freshly-grown produce. Better taste, color, and nutrition increase a sense of well-being, and simultaneously instill a vitally necessary and fortified community pride.

Community gardens tend to do that.

Compost Tahoe ( is the name for the “food to dirt” segment reported by the Tribune, creating a balanced, high-quality Tahoe blend. The next phase, called Grow Tahoe, equals that process by growing equally high-quality produce that offers basin residents much better value for what they spend. Produce typically loses large amounts of nutritional energy every 24 hours, something usually accounted for by picking them ‘green’ so they mature on their long journey to the local store. Anyone who has ever tasted something fresh from their own growth knows the fallacy of that argument: it’s simply not the same.

Now that the composting operation is under way, we want to complete the cycle by growing our own healthy “cornucopia” of food using the sun, available water from rain and snow, and our own specially prepared amended soil in a specially constructed and designed geodesic garden domes. Yes, that is possible. Yes, they are designed for our altitude and weather. Being essentially “indoor,” they can and will produce all year-round, leaving open the possibility of ongoing education programs for our youth.

To accomplish this, we are using a modified Community Supported Agriculture program to ensure equitable sharing and biodynamic garden techniques to increase the yield. Our contributing partners in compost can also participate in the yield, which in turn enhances the Tahoe visitor experience, regardless whether they are visiting you at home, or simply experiencing Tahoe’s wonders from wherever.

CSA’s original goal, in the words of American CSA founder Robin Van En is to “develop participating gardens to their highest ecologic potential and to develop a network that will encourage and allow others to become involved, enhancing the health of all.”

That was in 1985, and with today’s green building methods, levels of efficiency once considered impossible are now commonplace.

To integrate CSA’s as part of a comprehensive community plan to ensure all segments of the community have access to good, nutritious food is also, above all, a way to food security – to secure an adequate supply.

We realize that the mechanics of compost may not be of immense interest to some, but we are sharing our designs and thoughts about the proposed Community Garden in an ongoing series of presentations, including a video entry created for two major national fundraising contests. Watch the video at Vote to support the project at

Presentations are at 7 p.m. every Tuesday, starting June 15, at the Tahoe Wellness Community Center, in the Bijou Center.

Please join us as we explore further what this means for our community and for your individual health in the future.

Garry Bowen has a 50-year connection to the South Shore, with an immediate past devoted to global sustainability, on most of its’ current fronts: green building, energy and water efficiencies, and public health. He can be reached at either, or (775) 690-6900.

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