The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture has identified composting as a critical component to sustaining urban agriculture efforts. Compost adds organic matter to the soil and helps to maintain healthy, productive growing conditions. CCUA has built compost bins in several community gardens and private residences in Columbia.

We make compost at our Urban Farm with food scraps from Uprise Bakery, garden scraps, horse bedding, and leaves. Feel free to stop by the farm and see how we compost and get inspiration for your own home compost system.  You can also purchase compost from the city of Columbia. They sell compost to the public for a low cost at their Landfill and Compost Facility.

The City also offers regular composting workshops at the Capen Park Mulch site.

Building your compost bin

Pallets are by far the easiest and cheapest way to build your own compost bin.

You will need:

  • Four pallets of the same size
  • Four short pieces of 2x4s (these can be scraps)
  • Eight screws or nails (3″ long)

What you’ll be doing is making a square box. Start by standing two of the pallets up on their ends, perpendicular to each other. Attach the two pallets together with the 2×4 scraps and screws or nails. Repeat this step until you’ve got a box.

Many businesses are willing to give wooden pallets away for free, as they’re usually thrown away after one use. If you can’t find a business looking to give them away, you can purchase them from Civic Recycling (573-474-9526) for $1 a piece.

Fencing is another easy way to build a compost bin, but it will cost a little more money.

You will need:

    • Four T-Posts
    • 16′ of fence with a small grid (either 3′ or 4′ high)
    • Metal bailing wire
    • Tin snips
    • T-Post driver or sledgehammer


What you’ll be doing is making a square box. Drive each of the four posts into the ground in a 4’ square. Wrap the fence around the four posts. Where the ends of the fence meet, tie them to each other with the metal bailing wire.

Managing your compost bin

You are now the proud parent of billions and billions of microbes! These microbes are very easy to take care of and will yield as much finished compost as you have food to feed them. If you maintain a good balance of green and brown, they will flourish.

Green Material: Food scraps, fresh lawn clippings, fresh manure

Brown Material: Straw, old animal bedding, sawdust, leaves, etc.

Do not place much emphasis on exact ratios.

  1. Place food scraps on top of pile.
  2. Add some brown material to cover the food scraps.
  3. Repeat. It’s like making a big nasty lasagna.

DO compost

    • fruit and vegetable peels


  • any food leftovers
  • used coffee grounds and tea bags
  • meat scraps and bones
  • dairy and cheese products
  • noodles and pasta
  • paper napkins only

Do NOT compost

    • paper cups, plates or bowls

  • dishes or silverware
  • coffee creamers or stirrers
  • styrofoam cups
  • plastic bags or plastic food wrap
  • food wrappers or paper

Troubleshooting Problems

    • Smell: Too much green material, add some brown material.
    • Flies: Add more straw on top.
    • Too dry: Water.