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Think.Eat.Save: Lessons From A Compost Boy And His Apple Tree

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By Ty Schmidt
(My son, Carter, helped me write this piece. I wrote it from his perspective. Please VOTE!)

I have a special apple tree. When I was 3, I helped my dad plant it along with 6 other fruit trees in our backyard. Over the past 5 years, I have watched it grow from a wimpy little stick into a beautiful, sturdy tree. I love this tree.

Every year, this tree pours its heart into giving me the most delicious apples. It works super hard. To return the favor, I work hard to take care of it. I prune it. Mulch and water it. And since I grow my apples organically, I use the compost from my pile to feed it.

This isn’t just any compost. This is 100% local compost grown with love in my backyard. I grow it myself using the kitchen scraps from my picker-upper business. I work hard to get it just right. A perfect ratio of “greens” to “browns”. Turning the pile to bring in oxygen and heat it up. I make it nice and cozy to invite worms. This is the best compost with the finest organic nutrients that an apple tree could want. This makes the tree happy.

In the fall, at harvest time, I remember all of this hard work. The efforts of the tree, the bees, the worms, and my work with the compost. I think of all of this as I eat the apple. I savor it. I eat it slow. I eat the whole thing. Core, seeds and all.

It’s the least I can do.

Like Mr. Sendak wrote, “I love you so, I’ll eat you up.”

Of course, this is about more than just an apple from an 8 year old’s backyard. This about all food. Whether you grow it yourself or buy it at the store, all food is precious. All food requires hard work and should never be wasted.

This is why I get bummed to see perfectly fine and still yummy apples in my compost bucket. I hate to pick on my awesome neighbors because it isn’t just them. It is all of us. My family and probably yours too. The facts are overwhelming.

We need to change. The question is how? How can we as a whole move away from the idea of conspicuous consumption to making more conscious food decisions?

I don’t have all the answers but I do believe that there is hope. I have trust in us, the kids, the next generation. I trust that, with a little help from our parents and teachers, we can make a world where the apple, and the compost it’s grown in, is deemed too precious to waste.

So, mum and dad, get those kids outside into the garden. Have them sow the seeds, plant the starts and water the transplants. Show them how to dig in the soil, explore the compost pile, wrangle worms, and play in the dirt.

After they’re done playing, have those kids help with the hard work too. Turn the pile. Weed the bed. Mulch the orchard. Encourage them to become a Compost Boy (or Girl!) and to sling buckets in their neighborhood (pulling 60 kg of kitchen scraps with your bike is not easy!!).

All this hard work will not only help them appreciate the veggies they grow but also the food on their dinner table and in their school cafeteria.

Finally, plant an apple tree this spring. Teach your child to care for it. To nurture it. To love it. And when those apples are ripe, show them how to eat the whole thing. Core, seeds and all.

It’s the least you can do.

“I love you so, I’ll eat you up”.

We wrote this piece for the UNEP and Tree Hugger contest to win a trip to the 2013 World Environment Day event in Mongolia so we need your vote!

Thanks and Compost On!

Carter/Chief Bucket Slinger
Dad/Pile Turner

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