from ancient mesopotamia to williams sonoma

May 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

Composting may seem foreign to many of us who didn’t grow up farming or gardening, but as a practice it’s been around for thousands of years. I suppose that makes sense in a time where agriculture was so close to home and trash collection wasn’t the landfills it’s become today.

Composting dates back to ancient Mesopotamia and was a common practice in ancient China as well. There are also signs of its importance from the early Roman Empire from a book entitled “De Agri Cultura” from 200 B.C. Composting was also an obsession of our founding fathers, especially George Washington.

He was originally a tobacco farmer like his father but realized it wasn’t sustainable for the land as a sole crop, so he experimented heavily with not only crop rotation but ways to enrich the land through composting. He even built a “stercorary” at Mount Vernon to serve as a test lab to test out different practices of enriching the soil through compost. This was not only because he was a farmer but because he saw it as important for America to assert itself in the world and agriculture was the first occupation of his country:

“in the present state of America, our welfare and prosperity depend upon the cultivation of our lands and turning the produce of them to the best advantage.”

When you walk into any grocery store it’s easy to see how far away we’ve gotten from that sentiment, but there’s also been a renewed interest not only in knowing how our food is grown but in even growing our own food and being responsible for its nourishment. Anyone who has spent time in Portland, OR or Boulder can see it’s more than just a trend. I suppose it’s also a mainstream sign of things to come when Williams Sonoma starts marketing kitchen composting jars.

President Obama has been busy with a few other things than agriculture, but Mrs. Obama was the first to create a vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt after WWII. Each year she plants with local schoolchildren to teach them about nutrition. Apparently Obama and I both share a dislike of beets. You can check out their compost here:


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