Composting business begins every-other-week service in Durango

Additional subscription option decreases cost, frequency of food waste collection
Chris Trullaz, operations manager with Table to Farm Compost, turns over a compost pile on June 29, 2023, at the facility northeast of Durango. The composting business announced Tuesday it is now offering every-other-week services for current and prospective subscribers who want to compost but don’t have enough materials to justify paying monthly for weekly compost collection services. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Table to Farm Compost, the composting business partnering with the city of Durango, has added every-other-week compost collections to its services. It formerly just offered weekly collections.

The additional subscription option was added to give customers more pricing flexibility as well as to account for residents who simply don’t generate enough food scraps to warrant weekly service, Monique DiGiorgio, Table to Farm co-owner and managing member, said Thursday.

Table to Farm charges $28 per month for weekly service. The new every-other-week service is priced at $18 per month.

“You asked and we listened,” she said in a news release.

She told The Durango Herald many customers and prospective customers requested every-other-week service in a market study Table to Farm conducted last year.

The study offered subscribers three full months of free composting service in return for taking two surveys, one at the start of the free trial and another at the end of it. The surveys were to gauge why residents were interested in composting and why they kept their subscription or abandoned it after free service expired.

“Cost is always a factor in a high cost-of-living place like the city,” she said. “Many people asked to slightly reduce cost.”

The market study was a boon to the composting business, increasing its subscribership by about 200 people, she said.

“The study just got people into the habit and behavior of composting,” she said. “Once you start doing it, it’s really hard to throw your food scraps into the trash.”

Since announcing the cheaper and less frequent subscription option earlier this week, Table to Farm has already picked up another 20 to 30 customers, she said.

Table to Farm Compost has significantly ramped up operations this year with 2,000 to 3,000 cubic yards of in-process food waste being composted within multiple 200 foot-long windrows. (Courtesy of Table to Farm Compost)

DiGiorgio said new automated collections route software called StopSuite is partly to thank for the expanded subscription options. The system serves two purposes: It sends automated reminders to customers about when compost collection is scheduled for them, and it automatically creates collection routes for Table to Farm drivers to follow to pick up compost as efficiently as they can.

“That would have been a huge puzzle for us to figure out,” she said of every-other-week route planning.

The software also features an online portal on which customers can review their environmental impact by composting, the release says.

“We hope that this investment in our business model will get us one step closer to citywide composting,” Taylor Hanson, co-owner and managing member, said.

Durango has about 5,600 households within city limits, and currently about 800 households are subscribed to Table to Farm’s composting service.

DiGiorgio, like Hanson, said the goal is to get every household into composting, and then to expand into La Plata County.

In 2021, Table to Farm entered a five-year partnership with the city of Durango to promote composting and educate people about its benefits. The partnership was made with the lofty goal of achieving communitywide composting by 2025 or 2026.

Table to Farm is one of just 16 facilities of its kind in the state. It’s a 4½-acre lot on County Road 236 east of Durango and has space to process up to 18,000 cubic yards of compost at any given time.

Table To Farm acquired a shiny new windrow turner this year, purchased with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fertilizer Production Expansion Grant. The composting business has a public-private partnership with the city of Durango to provide composting services to interested residents, with the goal of getting residents into recycling organic food waste. (Courtesy of Table to Farm Compost)

The amount of compost it is processing has expanded significantly from a couple hundred cubic yard piles in 2017, the Table to Farm’s first full year in business, to between 2,000 and 3,000 cubic yards of in-process material distributed across numerous 200-feet-long windrows today.

“That’s thanks to a lot of food scraps from customers (and donated) Ska Brewing beer mesh,” she said.

The environmentally conscious business owners said they now have enough material processing to sell compost to farmers, the Colorado Department of Transportation for highway projects and local businesses such as Durango Nursery, Botanical Concepts and Bayfield Gardens.

Compost can be bagged and sold to individual customers and backyard gardeners too, DiGiorgio said.

She said Table to Farm has received financial assistance from several federal sources as well. For example, it was one of eight companies in the United States to receive the first round of the Biden-Harris administration’s Fertilizer Production Expansion Program.

The program financially “supports fertilizer production that is independent, made-in-America, innovative, sustainable and farmer-focused,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

She said the Biden-Harris administration supports circular economies and is implementing a national strategy to reduce food loss and waste by increasing the recycling of organics, which can contribute to climate change solutions.

Table to Farm Compost formed a public-private partnership with the city of Durango in 2021 to promote composting with the goal of citywide composting by 2025 or 2026. (Courtesy of Table to Farm Compost)

“Table to Farm is a circular business (that) brings food scraps in from the county, makes compost and distributes it within a 50-mile radius to farmers, nurseries,” she said.

She said the composting business also recirculates resources and creates jobs in La Plata County. State organizations such as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Department of Agriculture, the State Forest Service, the Office of Economic Development & International Trade, as well as the USDA, have all supported composting efforts.