LOWELL -- For city gardeners, the idea of devoting part of a small backyard to a compost pile is likely unappealing.
Space allotted for tomatoes, green beans and cucumbers disappears as the pile grows. And, then, there's the matter of keeping small critters and flies at bay.
Adam Jankauskas, founder of City Compost, has a solution that helps urbanites -- and suburbanites-- farm sustainably.
If you live in Greater Lowell, Jankauskas will come to your house and set you up with the containers you need to save food scraps. He'll return the following week to pick up your containers and eventually return bearing soft, earthy compost.
"What we perceive as waste, we can be put back into the soil," he says.
That goes for meat scraps, grains, dairy and desserts. Microbes can breakdown any organic material.
A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with an electrical engineering degree, Jankauskas spent a few years working in high technology.
However, he began to observe both wasted food and, in contrast, food wastelands. Food wastelands, officially called food deserts, are areas where the population does not have easy access to supermarkets and fresh foods.
"Composting helps us go back to growing fresh food," according to Jankauskas. "There are a lot of nutrients in what's thrown away."
While the big box stores sell home composting systems, they are insufficient to do the job, he says.
Mike Gwinn, of Lowell, is one of City Compost's 200-plus customers who would compost at home, but he doesn't want to attract undesirable wildlife.
"This is a great way to receive the benefit but not the hassle," he says.
City Compost will do the digging and turning for you. The company will also balance "greens" and "browns.
Green compostables primarily come from your kitchen. Brown compostables are dried materials like leaves and pine needles. What Jankauskas collects, he will return to you ready to go in your garden.
He also offers customers the option of donating their compost to local farms. Lowell resident Joan Beeson-Healy has chosen that option.
"It's great to know that the compost generated from our home is going to local farms," Beeson-Healy says.
Jankauskas began his business as a collection service when he lived in the Cambridge area. He brought his neighbors' waste to a composting facility. He discovered that the composting process used at this facility was not up to the quality standards he felt were best for sustainability.
So, he moved to Gardner and located his business there.
His process creates clean compost, he says. It screens out contaminants, heavy metals like lead, rubbish, bits of plastic and broken glass. Hot composting eliminates harmful bacteria such as E.Coli and Salmonella.
City Compost's end product is "Suitable for Use in Organic Growing," a specific and more meaningful label than "Organic", according to Jankauskas.
With about 185 customers, Jankauskas is adding staff and looking to add capacity. His schedule includes weekly pickups at customer homes and businesses. He also sets up a stall at local farmers' markets to promote City Compost.