'The rot thing': City seeks interest for compost program

The City of Dickinson recycling program is looking to start a community composting pilot program called “Backyard Buckets.”

Scraps of fresh orange peels protrude from a soil row of earthy leaves and manure, otherwise known as composting. The City of Dickinson is currently launching a survey in hopes to starting a community composting pilot program called, "Backyard Buckets." (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

Decomposed organic materials including leaves, grass shavings and kitchen scraps create nutritional, green fertilizer. This process of composting improves soil structure and quality, and the City of Dickinson is looking for interested green thumbs to launch a community composting program.

Dickinson’s recycling program is hoping to gain support with its compost interest survey to start its own composting pilot program titled, “Backyard Buckets.” Recycling and Collections Coordinator Rachel Shumaker said the proposed program is still in its beginning phases, and are looking to apply for a national grant in May with enough community support.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Resources Conservation Service have partnered up to award only two entities within each state the “Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction Project.” This grant entails a maximum of $90,000 per state to provide funds for a two-year pilot project for community composting whether it’s backyard composting, community composting drop-off sites or a program that focuses solely on farmers, Shumaker said.

“We are putting out an interest survey to see what the citizens would be interested in — if they’re interested in backyard composting or not. So it’s not anything where the city would be collecting your compost for you; it’s more of getting people interested in composting in their own space,” Shumaker said. “What we would do as a city is provide workshops and in-services to kind of help people get started with that. The other part of that is we are really pushing for a grant for this which could possibly provide start-up supplies for backyard composting.”

Shumaker said that a big portion of this grant involves creating partnerships with local churches, Parks and Recreation and the University of North Dakota to help facilitate educational resources within the public.


Currently, the City of Dickinson has three recycling sites and two of which collect yard waste during the summer, which only includes grass and garden trimmings, Shumaker noted. Composting is like recycling, she said, adding that it’s a green option to divert food waste instead of dropping it off at the landfill.

“This would be more of a food-waste based composting. But again, it’s in our residents’ own space. It helps them divert their waste in a different way and turn it into reusable soil,” Shumaker said. “To get people to buy in, essentially, would be using that soil amendment at their house because that’s one of the biggest things. It’s more education(al). People don’t always understand what compost is for and how you can use it. One of the things around here that we run into with top soil (is) we don’t have a lot of topsoil. We don’t have the healthiest topsoil and your compost can kind of make up for that, and it’s also a nice way to fertilize your yard without using chemical fertilizers. (It) just basically adding a soil amendment to your gardens, to your flowers or even just to your grass. So by highlighting the uses of compost, we’re hoping that helps get people interested in diverting their waste.”

Shumaker encourages people to complete the survey and to fill in their contact information, so the City of Dickinson can follow-up with interested residents. To fill out the compost interest survey, visit

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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