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Natural Awakenings Rhode Island

Gold for Gardens

by Max Fertik

“Living soil is the foundation of our well-being. A nourishing soil produces healthy plants, which leads to healthy animals, people and a sustainable planet.” –Michael Merner

Founded by Michael Merner in 1977, Earth Care Farm is the oldest operating composter in the fruitful state of Rhode Island and owes its good fortune to living so earnestly by these words. Compost is a nutrient-rich, living soil made with wide a variety of natural materials and used as an organic fertilizer and pesticide. It’s also an easy, eco-effective way to recycle food waste (i.e. peels, shells, skins) into something practical rather than letting it rot in a landfill.

This is important because 40 percent of the food produced in wealthy countries, like the US and much of Europe, gets wasted by consumers by either putting too much on their plates or buying too much food at the supermarket that ends up spoiling. That is $160 billion worth ($90 billion of that being dairy products) and 1.3 billion tons of food ends up rotting, unusable in the landfill. By contrast, in poorer nations, most of the waste comes from the farm itself when food is not refrigerated, or packaged or transported safely and gets thrown away. However, this makes up a mere 4 to 10 percent of the food they produce.

As a hungry population increases faster than ever and landfill real estate gets ever smaller, people have no choice but to repurpose this wasted material into something sustainable. Fortunately, Earth Care Farm is here to do the hard work for consumers. Earth Care Farm accepts an approved list of kitchen, garden or farm waste, and with it they make a famously tried and true blend of its own compost, Merner Gold. Providing a recipe of carbon-rich wood chips and leaves, a dense calcium-rich base of fish gurry, shells and other food scraps, and finally, a mixture of farm and zoo animal manures (most notably, elephant poop), all of these ingredients are mixed and matured for 12 to 18 months before they are twice sifted and bagged for Mother Earth’s hearty enjoyment.

While Earth Care Farm encourages all to try this sustainable practice at home, it can hard to make enough compost to care for an entire garden so gardeners can purchase supplemental Earth Care compost, knowing it is an investment in a fertile environment and more importantly, an eco-effective future.

The farm also grows rhubarb, strawberries, peas, carrots and award-winning garlic all summer long. Classes on gardening and cooking with its manager and resident horticulturalist, Jayne Merner Senecal, are another reason to stop by Earth Care Farm; one can learn how to weave these organic practices into everyday life and work towards a cleaner, more holistic planet.

Location: 89A Country Dr., Charlestown. For more information, call 401-364-9930 or inquire online at