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A dirty, beautiful approach to sustainability

John Thistleton 15 March 2019

Simone Dilkara with her good as gold organic compost. Photo: BWD Magazine.

Self-sufficiency has a beautiful symmetry for Simone Dilkara, an organic compost manager east of Bungendore.

She loves making piles of compost at the organic farm, Landtasia. Big truck-loads of garden waste, commercial kitchen food scraps and a variety of manure are turned into organic compost. Licensed to accept 5000 tonnes annually, the farm sells out and cannot meet demand from commercial fruit and fresh veggie growers in the region.

Simone teaches organic composting at the Canberra City Farm for Canberra Organic Growers Society, Floriade, and is teaming up with Yass Valley Council to present a workshop on Sunday, 31 March at Yass Community Garden.

Aware of humans innate love of composting, Simone discovered just how much at a childcare group, teaching eager pre-schoolers how to make compost and a worm farm.

“At the end, I looked at them and realised all these gorgeous, pink little things were filthy. They were just mud from head to foot. I said to the lady at the childcare are we going to get into trouble for sending them home so dirty?

“She said if she didn’t send them home dirty she didn’t feel she had done her job for the day. I thought it was a beautiful approach to running a childcare,” Simone says.

To avoid a similar outcome, adults should bring gloves and sunscreen to the workshop on Sunday, 31 March, from 2 pm to 5 pm. They might win a bucket of worms to get them started on composting.

With funding from the NSW Environmental Trust to reduce waste to landfill, the council is up to its neck in promoting recycling. The council’s natural resource and sustainability officer Rebecca Widdows is determined to offer hands-on workshops that are fun and interesting, rather than stand-up lectures in the community, and it’s hitting the mark.

Local artists, for example, taught a packed workshop how to turn junk into garden art. Eco-organiser and founder of the 10R’s Tanya Lewis delivered a de-cluttering workshop, while about 400 primary school pupils have attended sessions to learn about the environment.

People who prefer juicy nutritious carrots rather than the watery, tasteless ones from supermarkets attend Simone’s composting workshops. They discover with composting, soil’s water-holding capacity increases tenfold.

All benefits compound. Composting increases a plant’s disease resistance, healthy soil biology protects plants from diseases, fungi and insect infections. The better quality the soil, the more nutrient-dense veggies are. Yum!

Growers grasp the economic benefits too. “They realise the craziness of putting food scrapes and garden waste in a bin to be taken away and then going and buying fertiliser for the garden,” says Simone.

She believes that on a broader scale China has done Australia a good turn by refusing to accept any more waste sent for recycling.

“Australians were pretending to recycle by sending it all the way to China. We have to find ways of re-using recycled waste locally,” Simone says. So being able to do your own composting is a simple way of being more self-reliant and not sending that stuff to landfill. You also get this wonderful benefit of this gold for your garden.

While Simone studied anthropology and project management, she is happier in the dirt, and teaching how to ferment compost. “I learned about people, so chose microbes,” she says, laughing.


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