Freewheel farm owner and farmer Brent Hall spreads compost created by compostwheels in preparation of spring planting season.

Think composting and farming are only for rural areas and small towns? Think again. Urban farms and community, school, and backyard gardens are on the rise in Atlanta. And they all share the need for quality soil to grow quality produce.

That’s where Compostwheels comes in.

In 2012, David Paull founded this compost pick-up service to turn organic spoil into fertile soil for Atlanta farmers and gardeners.

Each week, participating neighbors place coffee grounds, tea bags, and food waste into their lined 5-gallon white pail. Compostwheels picks up the organic waste, by truck or bicycle, and delivers it to local partners who trade space for finished compost.

“Partnership is about resource sharing,” Paull explained. Compostwheels processes waste from its Grant Park bicycle route in the neighborhood at Freewheel Farm. In exchange, the farm receives nutrient dense compost that adds needed organic matter to the farm’s urban soil. Grant Park residential customers also receive finished compost, 50 pounds worth, to use themselves or to donate to a farm, school or community garden.

Piedmont Park Conservancy has also teamed up with Compostwheels. The park houses scaled composting at its maintenance facility and uses finished compost for the park’s trees, lawns, raised beds and dog park.

“Generally, waste never leaves your neighborhood, which ensures quality soil stays local while minimizing use of fossil fuels,” Paull said.

And, in just two years, Compostwheels customers have collectively diverted 160,000 pounds of organic waste from local landfills.

Springdale Park Elementary School (SPARK) learns about the fundamentals of composting.

Compostwheels is on a mission to educate Atlantans of all ages about the importance of composting to urban agriculture. Education and outreach take place at local farmer’s markets, schools, and summer camps. Weekend markets at Piedmont Park, Grant Park, East Atlanta Village, and Peachtree Road are the perfect venue for meeting new customers and partners.

Through school partners, like Springdale Park Elementary School (SPARK), Paull reaches students and their families. He’s guest taught the school’s environmental science class and set up two contained compost piles on the school grounds for the children to observe. Compostwheels volunteered at SPARK’s Family Science Night and led groups children and parents through the composting process. According to Paull, “more than a dozen customers now donate finished compost for SPARK to use in either land based or roof garden.”

As the composting network grows and spreads throughout our local communities, Paull is confident it will have a large impact on our local food system, economy, and environment.

For more about Compostwheels, visit compostwheels.com.

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.